A Simulation Game released in 1989, and the first "Sim" game by Will Wright. It's been around for a while: the original was widely released, it could be played on first-generation Apple Macintoshes (i.e. the ones with black-and-white screens) and other popular 8-bitmicrocomputers.You are the mayor of a city which is inhabited by Sims. You build the roads and infrastructure (power plants and other utilities, schools, etc.), you allocate the zones where your Sims will live and work, and the Sims decide where they want to live and what they want to do and (depending on tax policies) how many Simoleons they will pay you. You will need that money to maintain and increase the infrastructure. Natural disasters also happen on occasion, and you can even cause them on purpose.Eventually, SimCity proved to be so successful, it managed to spawn 5 sequels over 18 years:
SimCity 2000 (1993) was the first major extension, replacing the 2D top-view with faux-3D isometric graphics, and introducing most of the features of later games: water pipelines, underground rail, highways, healthcare, education, rewards, a wider assortment of power plants, game scenarios, and a separate building editor, the SCURK (SimCity Urban Renewal Kit). Interestingly UK PC Gamer magazine still ranks this as the best SimCity despite its age.
SimCity 3000 (1999) was mostly a graphical and feature update. Originally it was going to be in full 3D, but this was abandoned. The graphics stayed isometric but were promoted to high-definition, new variables were added including fire hazard, approval rating, water and garbage pollution, neighbor deals (which were quite unfair), and support for bigger cities that could reach the million inhabitants with a bit of luck. (It also eliminated hydroelectric power plants that lasted forever, so you could no longer leave your city running overnight and come back to a prospering metropolis with a million Simoleons in the bank.) A later expansion, called Unlimited / World Edition / UK Edition, added a scenario editor, a building editor, as well as Oriental and European building sets. This was remade as SimCity DS.
SimCity 4 (2003) was the second major extension; the buildings are rendered in 3D with high resolution, trimetric bitmaps, but the terrain was now a full 3D mesh, and the assortment of civic buildings was expanded (the schools, for example, were split into elementary schools, high schools and private schools), a maintenance cost was added for all the utility buildings, and the game was designed to allow for third-party mods. However, the greatest new feature was the regional gameplay: instead of playing with isolated cities, you could now play with an entire region divided in cities, you could get all your services from another city at a fair price, your Sims could live in your city but work somewhere else, and the demand in your neighboring cities would affect your own demand. A later expansion, called Rush Hour, added more transportation options, such as ground highways, monorail, elevated rail, one-way streets, toll booths, and there are also many third-party mods, such as the Network Addon Mod, which adds more rail systems, elevated roads, and more traffic crossings. Aside from the in-depth city management options, the player also had the option to design the region from scratch. This extended to the possibility of using real-life satellite imaging to add real world regions in game. So far, due to its many, many hidden depths and its lack of always-online DRM vulnerable to server outages, this game is considered the best of the series.
SimCity Societies (2007) was completely different from the previous games. Instead of laying out your zones, placing your infrastructure and seeing your city developing, you would place a building that generates a certain "societal value", which can be Productivity, Prosperity, Creativity, Spirituality, Authority, and Knowledge. These societal values were used to affect the look and functioning of your city: a lot of Authority, for example, would turn your city into a Stalinist capital, with security cameras, slum housing for the poor, posh buildings for your leaders, and Secret Police, while a lot of Productivity and Prosperity would turn your city into a New York-esque metropolis filled with skyscrapers and high-rise condos. The entire societal value system, as well as its long-promised full 3D graphics, greatly hyped up its pre-release value; however, the community found it disappointingly easy and shallow, and the 3D engine was prone to grinding even hulking great PCs to a halt at higher zoom levels.
SimCity Creator (2008) is a standard SimCity game that offers a wide selection of architecture themes such as Egyptian, Roman, Japanese, European, Las Vegas, near-future, and even fantasy themes that result in crystal-style or confectionery-style cities. The game was exclusively released on the Nintendo Wii and DS. It's notable for being the first game in the series to allow curved roads, as well as for having advisors who could actually take over a section of the city and see to its needs, though they had to be leveled up in order to do a good job. It also has the widest variety of available disasters.
SimCity (2013) was designed by Maxis, who has indicated that this game will be more of a direct sequel to SimCity 4 than Societies was. It also introduces online multiplayer to the series proper, a game mode that has not been explored since the long-forgotten SimCity 2000 Network Edition. However, due mostly to poor planning, server overload and bugs wrecked its release.
SimCity Social was a Facebook game that took the concept of both the 2013 remake and The Sims Social and combined them. The game was retired in June 2013.
Unlike The Sims, SimCity requires you to work above the level of the individual Sim. You are managing a city, and what you do will affect dozens to millions of Sims, at least, if you know what you are doing.The game is open-ended. There is no win condition (although in 2000 if you've built enough launch arcologies "the exodus" occurs and all your sims fly off to live in space), but it is not an Endless Game either; you can tell if you're doing better or worse, but you can keep doing it as long as you want, resources permitting. It should be noted, however, that certain versions of the game does have a Game Over scenario. For example, certain versions of SimCity 2000, 3000, and 4 will end with you getting kicked out of office if your city's treasury enters the red for a certain period of time.It shouldn't be confused with Sin City, unless you forget to build police stations. Or are playing on the appropriate map.The series also spawned a number of spin-offs other thanThe Sims, some of which are listed below. Most of them tend to be "SimCitymeets such-and-such."
SimFarm: SimCity meets a farm. Grow crops, raise livestock and influence the fate of the local town.
SimEarth: SimCity meets a planet. Take a terrestrial planet from formation to the point where its sun goes red giant, through the evolution of life and development of civilisation along the way. The "largest scale" Sim game, Spore excluded. Notable for coming with a Doorstopper of an instruction manual.
SimLife: SimCity meets evolution. Similar to SimEarth, but focused in more on life and evolution.
SimAnt: SimCity meets an ant colony. Win the battle of the back lawn against both the red ants and the humans, and try to invade their home.
SimTower: SimCity meets a skyscraper — similar to the "regular" games, but on a smaller scale.
SimIsle: SimCity meets the rainforest. Balance the demands of industry, ecology and tourism on a series of tropical islands.
SimTown: A "kids' version" of SimCity with bigger graphics, a smaller town, simplified game mechanics and more focus on individual citizens.
SimPark: SimCity meets a nature reserve. In North America. Doubles as an enviromental educational tool and a way to hear people constantly whining about there not being enough cars. Like Sim Town its mostly geared towards children.
SimSafari: SimCity meets a safari park. Like Sim Park, but in Africa.
Streets of SimCity: Actually a major break from the resource simulation genre, instead being a driving sim — with some combat elements thrown in, no less. Perhaps most notable for two things: you can upload SimCity 2000 maps into it, and it was a rather remarkable forebearer of much later open-ended games like Grand Theft Auto (except that the player is stuck in his car, and it was naturally much more primitive; that said, it even shares many similar themes, if you can believe that) Sadly, it had a number of Obvious Beta bugs that kept it from gaining a wide audience.
SimCopter: Another break from resource management simulations into a primitive flight sim; the player's goals were to deliver people to various destinations, drop water on fires, assist police chases and deliver patients to hospitals (many of which were injured by the player if he or she dropped them from his or her helicopter from too great a height). All of the player's craft were based on real-life helicopters, including the unlockable Apache attack copter. Like Streets, SimCopter also took SimCity 2000 maps as playable settings.
SimGolf: Create your own golf course and then play on it. Various elements of design are the starting locations, hole locations, placement of water, rocks, sandtraps, trees, and other hazards, and even changing the gravity if so desired. Not to be confused with Sid Meier's SimGolf, which was published by Firaxis.
SimHealth: Try and change the circa-1993 US healthcare system! Although remarkably deep, it was policy-heavy, had a 90 degree learning curve, and was not very entertaining.
Tropes present in the series:
2-D Space: Most titles don't allow for overpasses or underpasses. Have a street crossing another street? A railroad crossing a street? You're going to be impeding traffic with a stoplight or a railroad crossing.
Adaptation Expansion: The Super Nintendo version of the game introduced the rewards system. Also, introduced the only recognized mascot of the series, Dr. Wright.
All There in the Manual: The manual that comes with the game is an excellent way to play SimCity 4 well, if you read it thoroughly.
Ambulance Chaser: Instead of driving an accident victim to a hospital, the "evil" ambulance mission has you driving them to a lawyer's office first.
Arcology: SimCity 2000 has four types of arcologies, described on the trope page. SimCity 2013 has the option to build an arcology in a Great Works site, so that all the region's cities can help in its construction.
Artificial Stupidity: Drivers in 4 will take the shortest path, not necessarily the fastest one (much like real drivers), resulting in gridlock. The Network Addon Mod, in fact, makes a point of entirely rewriting the pathfinding algorithm to use the fastest path.
Without mods, the special Sims you can place in your city will get lost trying to find their work when it's across the freaking road!
In SimCity 2013 the AI is nowhere near as sophisticated as Maxis claimed it would be. Maxis claimed that individual Sims would have their own dedicated house and workplace, and a player could follow them throughout the day. However, players figured out that individual Sims would go inhabit the nearest vacant house regardless of whether they started in it or not, and will always commute the nearest available office regardless of whether they actually worked there or not. The traffic AI at launch was also particularly bad, as it only prioritizes taking the shortest route, meaning the Sims would clog up a single road and completely ignore a larger, more efficient roadway that leads to the same location because they would have to travel slightly farther. Updates that have been implemented since then to fix the crippling gridlock have done little to resolve the constant traffic problems.
Cars and pedestrians in SimCity 2013 can sometimes get stuck in infinite loops of turns, or drive any car straight up vertical roads.
Artistic License - Chemistry: In SimCity 2013, the Ore that you can extract from underground can be simply refined into either Metal or Alloy. Both of which are used for a wide variety of applications such as Building Construction and Electronics Manufacturing. That's obviously an unrealistically flexible metallic element that you're dealing with there.
Artistic License - Law: In 2013, the police have little thought balloons that say "You have the right to remain silent! That means shut up!" Actually, the right to remain silent is merely saying you don't have to respond to any of the police's questions, it does not mean you have to be silent, just that you have the right to not say anything which may be Digging Yourself Deeper before conferring with a lawyer (a wise move to make). For a game that kids play long before they have to worry about their Miranda Rights, it's worth noting.
The newspaper in SimCity 2000 prints random nonsense, such as bogus medical advice for earwax build-uppus, hypertension, llama pox or pimples.
According to the [source], everyone should be aware of the early warning signs of [disease]. These signs can include: vomiting up [second disease], loss of [body part] control and occasional fits of guppy violence. "If you are experiencing all of these symptoms, then it's probably a [adjective] idea to take massive amounts of medication," representatives say.
The newspaper may also warn about "prolonged contact with any kind of simulated city."
Some of the larger buildings in SimCity 3000 and later are modelled after real world buildings, but named differently. For instance, 450 Sutter appears as "Vu Financial" and the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Building (also known as 150 New Montgomery Street) is "The Galvin Corp". Some may even recognise Battersea Power Station as the form of the Coal Power Plants.
The newspaper in SimCity 2000 mentions some fake names. Journalists may win a Bullitzer (not a Pullitzer). Professors can receive the Nodel Peace Prize (not the Nobel Prize in Medicine). Athletes may win a gold medal at the International Games (not the Olympic Games). The game scenario for Barcelona mentions the 1992 Global Games (not the 1992 Summer Olympics).
Bootstrapped Theme: Actually, there is no theme to represent SimCity as a whole, but, each game seems to get its own little theme via one of the pieces in the game:
SimCity 2000 has its own theme, which can be heard hidden (via an ice cream truck or building sound effect) in all other titles.
Actually, if you play the console versions of the game (particularly the SNES version), you will hear the theme. And the theme ships as a bonus hidden track on SimCity 3000. On the other hand, don't touch the console versions ofSimCity 2000. Ever.
SimCity 3000 and its expansion Unlimited have a leitmotif (appropriately titled "Sim City Theme" on the soundtrack) which filters into many of the other tracks in the game.
"Street Sweeper" is used as background music during the opening cutscene of SimCity 4 Deluxe, which leads some to believe that it is this to that game.
The Cameo: In the SNES SimCity, you're able to erect a statue in Mario's honor. There is also a disaster where Bowser rips through the city looking for the portly hero. If the statue is present when Bowser arrives he'll snatch the statue and leave your city alone.
Cargo Ship: The newspaper in SimCity 2000 discusses this in universe, under the headline "Man Loves Computer". A man in a Love Triangle spends more time with his computer (who has a female name) than with his wife.
Cheat Code: Older versions of SimCity 2000 have codes that unlock all perks (including Arcologies) and give you a pile of money. There's also the classic "double fund" code where you buy two municipal bonds via "fund", then one through the city management menu, triggering a Good Bad Bug where you end up with a loan with a ludicrous negative interest, meaning you get piles of money you'll probably never run out of every year.
Colony Drop: In SimCity 4, one of the disasters is a meteor strike.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: From SimCity to SimCity 4, the zones have always been green for Residential zones, blue for Commercial zones and yellow for Industrial zones. The SNES port of SimCity changed the colour of Residential zones to red.
Also, 3000 had a dominant color for each zone type, density and income level. Mid-class apartments, for example, were brick red, rich houses had light green grass, heavy industry was brown, and small businesses had lots of pink esplanades. This remained to some degree on the Unlimited expansion, where the European building set, for example, had brown historic buildings as light commercial and light gray mid-class apartments.
People demand Fire Departments even when disasters are disabled. No point in building them unless Disasters are on (and in SimCity, set them to ~1% funding until needed). SC 4 replaced turning disasters on or off with most disasters only being there for Videogame Cruelty Potential, but some disasters would still happen on their own — fires, for example, start pretty much only on places without adequate fire coverage, implying that the fires you see as disasters are actually fires that got out of control and require your intervention.
The treasury specialist in SimCity 2000 recommends floating a bond to take advantage of low interest rates - ignoring the fact that it's sometimes hard to get a stable enough cash flow to maintain powerplants that self destruct every 50 years.
Your advisors in SimCity 4 have a tendency to incessantly shower you with messages telling you that your neighbours want to escalate the terms of their service contract with you even when there's no option to do so (not to mention that you might already be selling them five times as much water as they actually use, in which case they probably aren't in the market for more water)
SimCity 2013 is full of this. For example, the trash and school statistics do not always tally up. If you grab a calculator and manually add up the attendance per school, more than often you'll find that the numbers are not the same as the numbers shown on the statistics pane of the school tab. Also, the game may claim that a school is full even though it isn't, and it will claim that not everyone is attending school even though the graph view shows that every kid in every residence is attending school. Also, not enough high skill workers? Add more schools!(the correct thing to do in this situation is to instead upgrade the college or add another). Also, one early quest in the game tells the mayor that they may incorporate themselves as a small city on reaching 2500 residents, but upon taking the quest the number required doubles to 5000.
Also all a problem has to do is pop over the threshold for a moment to bring about a screaming alert at the player. Sewage has a rough moment processing? The game tells you that the system can't take it, even though by the time you take a look at your plant the rough patch has passed and there aren't any pressing problems.
In addition to that, if you build a teeny-tiny city you will be able to actually do an actual head count of the number of tiny sims you can see and discover that though your population may be "18" you can find 21 people walking around.
Corrupt Civil Executive: Your advisors in SimCity 3000 tend to give advice based or factors in their area of interest without any regard for the big picture, meaning they occasionally suggest somethat that's good for, say, public transport but would cripple the city as a whole. The manual handwaves this but suggesting they may have an agenda (which only results in paranoia over whether their advice is trustworthy even within their area of interest).
And now we have big oil and big coal in 2013! Who cares about pollution now?!
In 2013, any of the fossil fuel specializations can ultimately set you up for trouble if you do not prepare for the raw resources to run out in the city. Luckily, the global market tends to be fairly kind with the price of coal, ore, and oil at the moment.
Deadly Gas: In SimCity 2000, volcanoes and chemical tanks that were destroyed by fire unleashed a big cloud of noxious smoke onto your city, which caused any building it touched to immediately abandon. The debug menu even had a disaster, called Toxic Spill, that spawned a whole bunch of them at once. SimCity 3000 Unlimited upped the ante by introducing the Toxic Cloud disaster, which dumped acid rain so potent that it dissolved any building under it.
To clarify (and we should leave it at that), the nature of the multi-player does in fact require a connection for other players to see what's going on when they visit/when stuff happens. Since a player can theoretically visit you at any time, the game must track everything that's going on in order to show them what's going on. Otherwise, what they see and what actually happen may not actually be the same thing. Among other things. However, this is a bane for someone who just wants to play alone, offline.
Electronics specialization is by far a very difficult endeavor due to the fact that you need to seriously invest in education, be able to have an ample supply line, and ultimately have efficient means to get your consumer electronics off to the global market. The result? Lots and lots of profit.
Gambling is also another specialization in 2013 that while seemingly easy to get into, is actually quite difficult to maintain. You have to keep the city attractive for tourists and gamblers as well as to keep crime at a minimum (which isn't easy for casinos). Those who work hard at it can get extremely fancy cities with large profits.
Dynamic Loading: 4 employs dynamic loading failure to reduce memory consumption, rendering only the part of the map where the camera is focused on. If the camera moves to another part of the map, the rendered data at the first area is erased while the game renders the second area. With the proper settings, even the largest maps can be played on mid-end computers. The game will always render the ground first, before generating low-resolution copies of any objects, such as buildings, roads and trees, in the area and finally adding in all the details and eye-candy. The entire rendering process in one area can take anywhere from one to as long as ten seconds depending on how many objects are present and how much processing power and memory the computer running 4 has.
Easter Egg: You can build the game studio's headquarters, the California Plaza, in your cities. Then there are all the hidden Maxis logos and game references. Also, all the games from 3000 and onwards have 2000's theme hidden somewhere.
In 3000, you have to manually edit a configuration file to unlock the 2000 theme. In 4, it's the ice cream truck jingle.
In 2000 itself, we have Nessie and Maxis man. Also the Moose, if you start clearcutting too much forest, the sims will protest. Eventually you're asked if you want to hear the moose...
SimCopter has one of the most famous easter eggs of all time: one of the development team was gay, and became offended when asked to program in a celebration sequence with bikini babes... so he added bikini-clad men, forcing a recall when they were discovered. (This programmer would later go on to pull culture-jamming pranks as one of The Yes Men.)
In 2000, the Inspect mode turns the cursor into a cross-hairs. If you click the mouse while that cross-hairs is over a helicopter, the helicopter will then go into a tailspin and crash. And depending on where it crashes, this will also start a fire.
In the SimCity Urban Renewal Kit, typing "vaudeville" will cause a crudely-animated Launch Arcology with a top hat and cane to dance across the screen twice to some (presumably) vaudeville music.
SimCity DS features Bowser's Castle as a landmark gift.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: If you zoom in and look closely at the signs and billboards on buildings, you'll find their descriptions to be extremely concise. For example, low-tech industrial buildings will have signs and billboards that label them as "Standard Factory", "Dirty Factory", "Mill" or even "Low-Tech Industrial" and "Low-Tech Factory".
Executive Meddling: According to Wright, the publisher refused to release the original SimCity as is, because they felt players would feel the need to have a win condition. Wright appeased them by including winnable scenarios - and of course, the scenarios were the least popular feature of the game.
The modding community of SimCity 4 had to fix a raft of bugs that were never patched and severely harm large cities, including an over-simplified pathing system that grants the ability for commuters to get stuck constantly moving in circles between connected cities without ever getting a job anywhere or drive halfway across the map to get across the road, the Opera House having a limit of 1,200 R$$$ Sims after which it knackers the entire city's education rating, most industry-high tech buildings not actually employing any R$$$ Sims due to a math error...
SimCity 4 also has a rather well known bug in which the game will crash if you use the scroll wheel to zoom and you push the scroll wheel too much.
SC4 has never received optimization or patching for newer PCs and operating systems past Windows XP, and there's an array of graphics, rendering, gameplay and crashing issues that some users have experienced. The forums for the game on Steam are filled with user suggestions to fix some the problems via launch option strings, using Windows 7 compatibility mode and tweaking screen resolutions.
The 2013 edition of SimCity has a requirement that you must always have a connection to EA servers in order to play it, even in single-player. However, as with many always-online games (and worse than most in this case), most of the servers were severely overworked, making the game borderline unplayable. There's a few big in-game bugs as well. Build two sewage treatment plants, and the game won't know how to balance the load between them, nor will it give you the ability to do so yourself, resulting in backed-up pipes and angry citizens simply because one plant gets most of the sewage. Aside from those mentioned above and those mentioned in The Computer Is A Lying Bastard, the game engine also contains some nasty bugs that makes produces a Luck-Based Mission: the Fireworks Fun quest, due to a bug that causes all utility vehicles like fire engines, police cars and even garbage trucks and busses, to cluster together as a group instead of working independently.
Game Mod: Hundreds of thousands of them, especially for SimCity 4, are available on tens of fansites. The game is so modifiable, the Network Addon Mod qualifies as an unofficial expansion pack!
The Urban Renewal Kit was an official expansion for 2000 that allows you to customise city layouts and building sprites and tilesets.
Also should be noted that in the Super Nintendo version of the game, Dr. Wright would be chased by Bowser, which would indicate that Bowser was attacking your city. Also, you could build a Mario statue in your city after obtaining a population of 500,000 people.
Game Maker: Will Wright conceived it as a scenario editor for his WWII game Raid on Bungeling Bay and programmed it as such for the Commodore 64 in 1985, before expanding it to a full-fledged application. Several developers turned "the toy game" down because it wasn't ''arcadey''-enough.
Karma Meter: The driving missions in Rush Hour can turn your Mayor Rating into one, as it will increase or decrease depending on what missions you perform.
Kill Sat: One of the disasters in 2000 is a microwave satellite missing the power plant it's supposed to beam energy to, and instead blasting your city.
Leitmotif: In the SNES version, each city size has its own background music.
Lethal Joke Building: The Tourist Trap reward building from SimCity 4. This seemingly useless llama-shaped building known for its far-spitting llamas boosts the demand caps for low-wealth residents by a whopping 100,000, which makes it incredibly useful for building large cities. Although it has a slight NIMBY effect on residential zones, it increases the desirability of nearby commercial zones by a significant amount. Commercial high-rises and skyscrapers seem to cluster around it as if it were a capitalist idol.
Loading Screen: SimCity 4 features goofy loading status messages, such as "Deciding what message to display next", "Deunionizing bulldozers", "Retrieving from back store", and the ubiquous "Reticulating splines".
Logic Bomb: Most games have an example or two where the simulation suggests two seemingly contradictory things at once. In the 2013 game, for example, residents will claim "where's the shopping?" while the commercial building next door will lament "no shoppers", even if the two are the same wealth level.
Morton's Fork: One of the random events you could experience in SimIsland, you would receive an SOS from a passing tanker requesting immediate help. It was carrying a cargo of toxic waste, which proved too much for the ship's hull to handle. You are given the choice of either unloading the toxic waste for storage onto your island (which you could never get rid of) in order to allow the tanker to repair its hull, or turn them away and have them risking a major ecological disaster at sea.
Mundane Fantastic: At first glance, you wouldn't think that something so plain as building a city would prove to be so addicting.
Never Recycle a Building: SimCity 2000 takes this trope at full speed. The moment tenants move out of a building, it is instantaneously transformed into a dirty, run-down ghetto shack, regardless of what it was before.
As does 3000, but the abandoned building varies depending on the zone and density type (e.g., a light residential building will turn into the aformentioned ghetto shack, and a light commercial building will turn into a run-down shop).
4 averts this by overlaying a dilapidated texture on abandoned buildings. Also, a building can be re-occupied by lower income tenants.
Also averted in SimCity 2013. Like in 4, a dilapidated texture is overlaid on abandoned buildings. In addition, homeless people will squat in abandoned buildings.
Nintendo Hard: The first game, and SimCity 4 features the hardest money-management metagame ever.
The Rush Hour / Deluxe Edition of SimCity 4 adds difficulty settings, and even the easiest difficulty setting is still pretty hard. Forget the fact that you start off with 500,000 Simoleons on this setting; if you don't spend them wisely and generate revenue within a couple of years, you will be bankrupt. On the other hand, the difficulty of maintaining a thriving city in SimCity 4 is what compels people to keep playing it. Those who play a sufficiently large number of hours may see everything differently, and maybe even have increased respect for every government in Real Life.
And if you can't generate enough revenue to offset the capital that's constantly spent, you'll be stuck constantly performing missions around town.
This also applies if you choose to keep disasters enabled. It may become a Classic Video Game Screw You in some cases, such as enabling disasters and running at cheetah speed in 2000, causing a simple fire to wipe out the city before you can react.
At least some of the money-management difficulties can be solved by applying the lessons in a tutorial in SC4 appropriately named "Making Money Tutorial".
Traffic takes the center stage in 2013.
No Communities Were Harmed: Averted, many sample cities and challenge scenarios are recreations of real cities. Tokyo, Los Angeles and various big cities from around the world are the usual suspects.
There was also a really fascinating one in 2000 where you took over Flint, MI in the 1970s, just before shit hit the fan.
No Export for You: The rare Sim City 64. It was released only in Japan due to it being for the Nintendo64 Disk Drive, a failed module which died within months of being released.
No Fair Cheating: Some early SimCity editions on the PC have a cheat code that grants the player money ... at the cost of possibly triggering a major earthquake.
Not in My Backyard!: In 3000,4, and 2013, how zones are developed and how desirable they are is a considerable gameplay factor: while uneducated plebes and the low-level businesses and factories they work for can pop up anywhere, middle and upper-class citizens and businesses will only want to set up house and shop in unpollutted areas close to their workplace/employees/customers and places with good schools, hospitals and other city-provided services. Places like landfills and power stations will drive away all but the most destitute of sims, while parks, plazas, landmarks and reward objects will attract the wealthy.
One Sim's NIMBY may be another Sim's treasure. For example: farms hate heavy road traffic while commercial buildings absolutely love it since it brings more customers to them.
Certain structures such as heavy industry, prisons, toxic waste facilities and casinos will result in the petitioners screaming at you. Industry and prisons are a necessity if you want your city to grow, but structures such as megaplex malls and army bases have negative effects as a cost for funding to the city and increase to certain zones, so it's up to the mayor to balance the risk/reward, or not use these bonuses if the city can thrive without them.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Several advisers, the transport minister from 2000 and the financial adviser from 3000, are a lot more demanding than most of the others. One petitioner is even portrayed as "never having met a city decision she liked" and does she ever live up to that moniker. Several of the other petitioners; environmentalists, low income earners, and those demanding lower taxes among them, are more unreasonable than others. One actual obstructive bureaucrat is particularly nit picky, but does not complain as much as some of the others and occasionally rewards you for your efforts with a city hall, courthouse and army barracks.
Subverted in 2000, 3000, and 4: The game ends when you get kicked out of the office, which happens if you run into the red and refuse to do anything about it (say, take out a loan, repeal money-losing ordinances or build income-generating buildings) for a certain period of time.
Product Placement: SimCity 2013 via freeDLCsnote Free to players because the said companies already paid for the advertising. Yep, aside from the obtrusive DRM, players will have the option of putting up with in-game advertising in exchange for better land aura.. So far the game has advertised Nissan's Leaf FEVs with the Nissan Leaf Charging Station DLC and Progressive Insurance via the Progressive Insurance Office DLC. These DLCs have a positive effect on the player's city, of course.
Quicksand Box: There are manuals and tutorials, but getting a city off the ground is no cakewalk.
Real Is Brown: SimCity 4 did this with all the buildings in attempt to make them look more subtle. Probably one of the earlier uses of the trope as well.
If you've used Google Street View to look at the center of any small town in the US (or the brown-brick skyscrapers of many midsize cities), you'll know that this is largely justified.
Averted or played straight according to player preference in the 2013 release, as it gives players the option of applying various graphic filters to their view which changes color contrast ratios. Some give the city a more subdued color look, others give it a more bright and vibrant look. Despite having no mechanical effect, they can drastically alter the "mood" a city projects.
Revenue Enhancing Devices: Simcity 2013 has been releasing DL Cs for things like an amusement park and airship port at 10 dollars a pop, roughly once a month - thus attempting to fool players into paying an admittedly optional monthly fee.
Running Gag: "Reticulating splines" has appeared as a loading screen line in every game since SimCity 2000. Also, a lot of things seem to be centered around broccoli and llamas for some reason.
The "Reticulating Splines" status is so pervasive, SimCity 4 even parodies it, with the status "Gesticulating Mimes".
In 3000, the news ticker often makes references to an apparent kitty kibble shortage. Said kibble manufacturers deny everything, but the kitties are increasingly unhappy as you play.
Llama-related gags abound in both The Sims and SimCity 3000. In the original The Sims Exchange days, one user ran with this and regaled readers with the tales of Llama Man, a "The Tick"-like comic book superhero.
Newspaper articles in 2000 have a running gag of declaring things to be bald. After a chemical cloud disaster, the headline in the paper is "Bald Pollution", and several people involved in the newspaper stories are noted as being bald. Sometimes, bizarre headlines such as "Bald Radio Found" crop up as well.
Self-Deprecation: The newspaper in SimCity 2000 may warn about "prolonged contact with any kind of simulated city." Better stop playing SimCity now.
Sequel Difficulty Spike: SimCity 4 is much more complex compared to its predecessors, and for beginners, it's recommended to try SimCity 2000/3000 first before getting into fourth installment.
Serious Business: Players have spent years at a time trying to recreate real cities, most commonly New York, and in SimCity 4, embarking on enormous region-wide building projects. Some of these are so intricate that players alter the game's programming specifically for them; all while writing elaborate backstories and plots for their worlds. Several fansites hold competitions for the best of these. Also, architecture students often use SimCity 3000 and 4 to test the theories they have learned in urban planning class.
One of the disasters in the 2013 game is an Epic Creature from Spore.
Show Within a Show: A game within a game. The newspaper in SimCity 2000 reports that school students may play mayor in a city simulation game. Some students go to the school nurse, afraid that they might live in a simulation.
SoCalization: Probably most blatantly in SimCity 4. The landscapes resemble southern California, right down to the brown, muddy rocks. The water is a tropical light blue. City streets and roads can be lined with palm trees, bus stops resemble the RTA and BART systems, all highways are three-lane concrete affairs.
On the other hand, Maxis did send some members of the team to Europe to study the contemporary architecture of England, France, and Germany for the European building set in Rush Hour. To a lesser extent, the European and Asian building sets from the SimCity 3000 expansion are also aversions.
A raft of Game Mods for SimCity 4 will also change the vegetation and terrain textures. One adds snow at high altitudes, one that adds mountain forest trees, one that replaces the passenger trains with France's SNCF Corail trains, one simulates the landscapes of northern Mexico — forest in the mountains, desert in the valleys — and one that, quoth the mod's own description, "turns the water from light Caribbean blue to dark rest-of-the-world blue".
Maxis has blantatly admited that 2013 features landscaping from the California region. Also, a lot of the buildings, especially for the low and mid-wealth sims, very much resemble buildings from the So-Cal area, including fast food restaurants with giant objects (like a donut or a hamburger) for signs and rather modern adobe strip-malls.
Super-Deformed: Dr. Wright is a very Japanese touch to an otherwise-Western game.
Tech Tree: The 2013 game has one. The more advanced buildings require such things as and upgraded City Hall, a certain population milestone, or certain other advanced buildings such as a university. You can disable the tech tree by entering sandbox mode.
Tempting Fate: In 2013 the Fireworks Fun quest has the sim presenting the quest ask "What could possibly go wrong?". Answer: At this time, plenty. Wait for the patch that fixes the clustering vehicle bug that's coming out soon before accepting it. Or at least have a maxed out fire station and a second normal station.
Terrain Sculpting: The games allow the player to modify the terrain as befits the needs of a growing city. However, doing so as a mayor is expensive (unless you cheat). Fortunately, each game since 2000 has had a mode wherein a player could sculpt the terrain for free before founding a city there (and in 4, there are more ways to do so pre-founding as well). The controls have become increasingly precise and lifelike, and support for terrain imports became available, so as to recreate real-world locations. In 4, you can also make craters before or during city play by dropping meteors or summoning volcanos.
3000, 4, and Societies all allow the importation of height maps for a city (or whole region in the case of 4), meaning if you can somehow convert a Topographic map to a height map, you can basically recreate any real life location. 4 even offered a service that would allow users to use USGS data to create regions modeled after any part of the US.
Ultimate Job Security: Outside of the scenarios, the only way to get fired is to run your city too far in the red.
On the other hand, you can't fire any of your advisors. You may wish you could if the Environmental Advisor in 4 obtains a Court Order to shut down a water tower or pump because the water quality is bad (forcing you to buy an expensive Water Treatment Plant or demolish the old pump and put a new one elsewhere).
Ungrateful Bastard: In 3000, due to an unexplained bug, when your city's population reaches above 250,000, your citizens will constantly complain about the taxes being too high, even if you set the rates to exactly zero percent! This makes it seem like your citizens are an in-universe version of an Unpleasable Fanbase.
Variable Mix: In 2013, the music will take on different qualities when you pause the game or enter a building's edit mode, or just to reflect the overall state of the city.
Vice City: If you choose to build only a select few police stations or not any at all, your city will be this.
In 3000, this also applies if you don't have any jails constructed (which were first introduced in this game). Even with several police stations built, with no jails, your city's LE will be forced to let criminals go and continue their cycle of crime as they please.
SC2013 makes this an available specialisation, by way of gambling.
Videogame Caring Potential: to a detrimental extent, in many ways. Focus too much on giving your citizens an idyllic existence with parks and marinas and police officers on every corner, and you'll run into the red.
Truth in Television to some extent: There's a reason that programs like that tend to get cut when the budget gets tight.
Videogame Cruelty Potential: The very existence of the "disasters" menu — SimCity 4 even gives players the power to control where disasters hit, and turned off most disasters appearing randomly, meaning the only reason for disasters is this.
SimCopter has a LOT of potential:
Finding the Apache allowed you to shoot missiles at buildings and cars, destroying them, and mow down civilians with the machine gun. The "U-Drive-It" feature of SimCity 4: Rush Hour also had a drivable attack helicopter, in addition to a tank, a jet fighter, and a UFO. Additionally, you could use the Apache's rockets to cause a nuclear meltdown, by blowing up a city's nuclear power plant (if one was built). The resulting explosion would level most of the city, destroy your helicopter and start numerous medievac and fire missions. (If you didn't want to lose the Apache, it was best to let the fires burn their way up the silos and switch over to a cheaper helicopter. You lose whichever one you flew last.)
There were also UFOs flying around the sky from time to time. Shoot them down with a few missiles. There were no serious repercussions for doing so (except sometimes they'd cause a fire when they crashed.)
You could drag and drop passengers from their seats to forcibly debark them. Their expression if you do so while flying was priceless.
On a more subtle level, leaving Sims impoverished without basic municipal services, sending residents on long commutes through woefully under-capacity streets, giving tax incentives to heavy polluters... you get the idea.
One that overlaps with Easter Egg: In 2000, you could shoot down the traffic copter with the Center tool.
And start fires if "disasters" are switched on. Another amusing one in 2000 is to build anything other than low-density residential next to an airport runway. Naturally, daily 911 disasters with massive fires will occur if "disasters" are switched on. If they are off, the planes merely explode. You can also blow up oil tankers by raising the land under them so they are lifted out of the water, and destroy trains by destroying the train tracks they are stuck on.
In 2000, if you zone a high-rise in the way of an airport's runway, airplanes will crash into it. Repeatedly.
In "SimCity Social," this is in fact encouraged, as certain rewards are only available if you pull pranks on your friends' cities. A mild example, though, as most acts of trickery are fairly benign, but a few of them involve sprinkling laxatives into the flour at the bakery (which is actually more dangerous than it looks in cartoons) and throwing gas on the flames of a burning building.
In SimCity 2013, hackers can now take advantage of the "always online" requirement to wreck havoc in the cloud-saved cities of other players (It does not save them though). Whether if this continues will depends on the fallout from the game's launch. And don't bring this up in EA's forums. They are banning people about this. No, not banning people for actually wreaking the havoc - banning people for pointing out that there's a flaw in their "always online" requirement.
Video Game Time: The day-to-day business of citizens could be seen but it happened on a different time scale to the rest of the game so that day-to-day business was happening on a week-to-week time. In Sim City 4, they made the My Sim feature explicitly work on a different time scale.
Lampshaded in SimCity 3000 when one unpauses a game a while after pausing it and making tweaks. The ticker will display a hilarious message about the sims wondering if time stopped and about things that weren't there before the game was paused.
Violation of Common Sense: It was a viable strategy to build no roads whatsoever in the original, relying exclusively on train tracks laid out in the same fashion. While this method was twice as expensive, it completely eliminated traffic as a concern and the majority of one's pollution as well.
It's actually not that big of a stretch. Many of the most densely populated cities in the world rely heavily on light rail for transportation, with less than half the population owning cars and even less actually using them to commute.
You can do the same thing in the 2013 edition, using the service roads for an oil pump. Not only do they have no traffic limit, they're free to build.
We All Live in America: Quite a few things work the way they do in the United States and not in other countries. For instance, it is the responsibility of the city government to fund and operate the police force, whereas in many if not most countries, that's the function of a higher level of government (e.g., in France, it's the central government, while in Germany, it's the state government). Of course, the developers had to use some country as a model.
On the other hand, averted in a few cases (mostly for gameplay reasons). The city (which is the only level of government in the game) owns and operates all utilities (water, power, and sanitation) and all health facilities. Most of these services—with the exception of water supply—are usually handled by private companies in the US; there are a few places where the local government might own or have a controlling stake in a hospital, power plant, or garbage-collection service, but these aren't exactly the norm. Governmental ownership of most education facilities, however, is realistic (as it is in most countries).
People won't tolerate high tax rates. For example, in Sim City 4 demand goes negative if taxes are set at about eleven or more.
That's probably because an 11% municipal tax rate is unheard of anywhere in the United States. (As an example, NYC's residential rate is at 10.8%)
Of course, while Americans can get pretty passionate about the tax rate and there are places in the world with higher tax rates, there are fairly few places in the world where high tax rates are exactly popular.
The game also resembles the United States in that the easiest solution to population growth is usually to expand into a previously undeveloped wilderness area. Most European cities don't have this option.
The lack of mixed zoning policies has been remarked as basically being US urban planning, circa 1960. The tendency to prefer highways to commuter rail, etc. in anything but the largest cities (driven by weak commuter algorithms) is also quite American. The former may have been a product of simplified programming; the concrete-slapping that the latter can induce, however...
4's Network Addon Mod actually addresses it with a patch that "makes your sims European" by increasing their preference for mass transit.
Your advisors will call you out if you're not too nice or competent.
Or if you cut back on transportation funding in SimCity 2000.
Wretched Hive: If you legalize gambling and don't put around any police stations, your town will be on its way to becoming like this.
Writers Cannot Do Math: The newspaper in SimCity 2000 cannot do math. Journalists just insert random numbers in their stories. So the "fifth" microwave accident in history can happen after the "ninth" one. Or this: "The victory all but assures August River a berth in the playoffs for the seventh time in 28 years and would only be trip number 3 in the history of the franchise."
In SimCity 4, electricity takes the center stage. You can still have limited development without water, but an area without electricity will not even develop. This is the case in the rest of the series as well.
The manual for Sim City 2000 also mentions that, yes, the developers know that cities existed before electricity, but the sims themselves are electronic beings and therefore they require that electricity to live.
In SC2013, water once again is limited, though it can be replenished. Other resources exist such as coal and oil, which are, as in real life, nonrenewable.
The SNES version has a near Game-Breaking Bug where upon loading any saved city, the electricity will start off as non-existent for 5 seconds before restoring itself. This can have a severe effect on certain blocks, easily dropping a C-3 High building down to a C-1 Low for example or dropping a growing R-2 High to low density housing. Of course as a cartridge game with a very niche following, this bug was never fixed.
Zeerust: The original SimCity feels especially dated now that the year 2010 has come and gone and there was no nuclear meltdown in Boston (if you discount the one in Fukushima, Japan in 2011).
Zombie Apocalypse: One of the (rather unexpected) random disasters in SC2013 is that radioactive brain-eating zombies start attacking your citizens. The police will do what they can to fight them off, but are ultimately ineffective. They crumble away with the arrival of the morning sun, but players may find themselves having to demolish more than half their city afterward just because it's all become abandoned and won't repopulate on it's own.