SimCity 4 > Introduction


SimCity Classic

SimCity 4 is the latest in a long line of city simulator games that started with the dissertation of a graduate student named Will Wright during the mid-1980's. To market the computer game that would eventually come out of that dissertation Wright founded Maxis in 1987.

SimCity (now called SimCity Classic) was an MS-DOS game where you built a city and watched how the sims (simulated citizens) worked and lived. The object of the game was to make a well-run city like the one at right.

In the simulator you laid roads and rails; set up two kinds of power plants (coal and nuclear) and laid the lines to get that power out; zoned places for your sims to live, shop and work; and provide police and fire protection. You could set the tax rate for your city — one rate for all. And on those moments when you feel, well, evil, you plagued your sims with disasters, including a little red Godzilla attracted to pollution.

SimCity generated the terrain for its cities at random, and the player could not create land, water or forest with the game itself. Players had to buy a separate Terrain Generator to create cities with their own mix of land and water.

In time SimCity was so popular it spawned a host of simulation games: SimEarth (1990), SimAnt (1991), SimFarm (1993), SimTower (1996); and finally The Sims (2000), which has taken on a life of its own.

SimCity itself went from MS-DOS through two versions for Windows. The first Windows version, SimCity 2000 (1994), was a three-dimensional domain that introduced terraforming, highways, water service, schools, hospitals, advisors and the concept of nation/region with neighboring cities.

Next came SimCity 3000 (1999), whose added features include rewards, integration of SimFarm (as a light industry), an early version of the Sims, and interaction with neighboring cities for imports or extra funds. There was even a hidden treasure available with the right response to an offer from "Cousin Vinnie".

Before the release of SimCity 3000, Maxis was bought by Electronic Arts in 1997. With the extra capital the city simulator was rebuilt into a totally new simulation game released as SimCity 4 in 2003. An expansion pack, SimCity 4: Rush Hour, came out later that year; it adds features like street and place labeling, found in SimCity 2000/3000. Finally the two were combined with a service pack update into Sim City 4: Deluxe Edition by the end of 2004.

Meanwhile SimCity Classic did not die: Maxis/EA has transformed it into a Web game you can play from your browser (after registration). The Web SimCity plays just like the computer game, except that it does not have every feature. Also, since the game is an ActiveX control, you must use Internet Explorer to play it.

If that does not float your boat, a SimCity Classic CD (complete with Terrain Generator) was making the rounds in computer and office superstores in the late 1990's, and might still be available. On modern computers SimCity Classic plays well on the slowest speeds, and today's screens make the whole of the editing window visible as it never was with those CGA/EGA/VGA monitors.

Or, here's an idea: Just play SimCity 4. :)

Update (3 February 2008): SimCity Classic is now an open-source program under the terms of the General Public License. As the name SimCity™ is a trademark, the source code has been renamed Micropolis. Micropolis is available on Linux systems only.

Further Reading

Written by Andy West on 14 October 2003, and updated 7 February 2010.