Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Release date:||January 10, 2003|
|Game modes:||Single player|
|ESRB rating:||Everyone (E)|
|Platforms:||Windows, Linux under WINE, Apple Macintosh|
There are many differences between this game and previous versions, the largest difference being that cities are now located in regions that are divided into segments, each of which can be developed. The regional play concept adds a whole new dimension to this sequel of SimCity.
Neighbor cities played a large role in the previous version of the game, SimCity 3000. For example, neighbor deals could be established, where a city could exchange resources such as water, electricity, or garbage disposal for money. In this version, the player may develop several dependent cities at the same time, eventually populating the entire region. Additionally, the simulated city can now be seen at nighttime as well as during daytime.
SC4 can be used in conjunction with Maxis' popular game The Sims. Sims can be imported into the city where they will report what they think of the area they are living in. SC4 comes with some default sims for those without a copy of the game. Moreover, SC4 does have a control interface very similar to The Sims.
More recently, Maxis has released an expansion pack for SimCity 4 dubbed Rush Hour, which includes extensive transportation improvements such as avenues (roads with two lanes going in each direction), ground level highways, and elevated rail. The expansion also includes a European contemporary building set, minor gameplay tweaks and new, larger service buildings suitable for larger cities. One of the main features of Rush Hour is U-Drive-It, a mode where players can take control of cars, planes, and many other vehicles and drive them around the city. A set of missions have been included with the game that involve things such as rescuing cats with a fire truck and drawing images in the sky with a skywriting plane. This feature has some similarities to SimCopter and Streets of SimCity.
The biggest improvement in Rush Hour (RH) is the route query; with it, it is possible to check the routes the sims use to get to their jobs, and it makes the traffic simulator of the game feel a lot more "alive" since one can directly see where the Sims need to go and how they do it. However, the route query does have some flaws: often, the number of Sims reported to be working at a building differs from the number given by standard query, and some impossible travel routes can be seen, such as cars "jumping" off highways onto adjacent buildings or going through structures.
To fix some of the major issues affecting the Rush Hour expansion, Maxis has later released a patch which can be downloaded from the official SimCity 4 website.
Of note are the exceptionally high system requirements of this game, with users having 2GHz CPUs and 1.5GB of RAM reporting that their systems are too slow to effectively run the program. Many of the first to purchase the game found an abundance of bugs; this was mainly due to the fact that the game had not been properly beta-tested.
Many assumed that the high system requirements are due to the intense graphics requirements of the game. SimCity's graphics engine for this installment is quite refined, however, and its requirements are modest despite the heavy graphical nature of the game. The high requirements are actually due to the complexity of the simulation the game is running.
Another common problem is the poor quality of the sims' pathfinding skills, often taking a slow but direct route over a faster route that requires moving away from the workplace to use. User communities, however, have studied the transportation issues in great detail, and have created "pathfinding mods" that greatly improve the sims' ability to find the fastest route. These can be found at the fansites listed below.
Maxis and Electronic Arts have released several patches that deal with many issues discovered in the original versions of SC4 and Rush Hour, including a reduction of the exceptionally high requirements when designing major metropolises, and the so-called "stage 8" problem, which made it nearly impossible to get higher-density buildings such as skyscrapers.
Several tools have been released by Maxis that allow players to customize the game to their liking, in addition to several third-party tools.
The Lot Editor allows a user to modify the lots that SC4 buildings are built on. It cannot edit the actual buildings, although it is possible to create new buildings by adding props (including other buildings) onto an existing one.
The Building Architect Tool, or BAT, is used to create actual customized buildings. When the buildings are finished, they can be imported into the Lot Editor and made available for use. It is based on gMax and was released in February 2004. Several modified versions have been released that have, in effect, served as bugfixes for various problems that had not been discovered before the initial release.
Such a tool was also available for SimCity 3000, and SimCity 2000's Urban Renewal Kit was very similar in function; however, both were created from scratch by Maxis and used completely different interfaces.
Third-party modifications have also been created to solve problems that were not yet fixed in an official patch, add functionality to the game, or make the high learning curve slightly lower by modifying environment variables. A large amount of work has been done by a group of people at Simtropolis called the Modd Squad. They have unlocked many of the game's internals to modification, and have created an impressive array of changes to the game. Their work has also permitted the development of more realistic user created plugins made with the BAT and Lot Editor.
The work done by these "modders" has allowed modified but working structures to be created in SimCity 4, such as road overpasses over flat land, landmarks with jobs (as compared to the normal ones, which do not offer work), significantly modified highway interchanges, and new tools for building tunnels without going into elevated terrain.
Eventually, several Modd Squad members teamed up with Lot and BAT wizards to form the "Batt Squad Certification" group, also called BSC in short. As a group they release new buildings and addon packs for the game on a regular basis and continue to expand the limits of custom user-made content. With cutting-edge mods and buildings they continue to improve the gaming experience for every type of player, be it the casual sandbox player who justs wants beautiful skylines or the serious player who doesn't want cheatlots ruining his perfect score. Since the founding of the BSC, several other groups have formed (such as NDEX, BSP and others) to add their own view to the world of SimCity 4 custom content. The differences between the teams are probably only a glimpse of the many cultural differences that exist around the world in SimCity players.
- BSC — The first BAT group, focuses mainly on small to medium buildings in a "real-life" style, but has also accomplished several large and technically difficult buildings such as the WTC and the Petronas Towers. The BSC has become a respected BATting organization.
- NDEX — NDEX was formed in a way to get some of the most exceptional BATter's work MODded and made possible for easy use in-game. Since then, NDEX has focued on skyscrapers and more urban work. The work of NDEX is some of the most exceptional quality of BATting in the game today. NDEX stands for Nitro, DuskTrooper, Equinox and Associates. (See more below)
- BSP — This is a smaller group of BATters focusing on various landmarks in and around Detroit, Michigan. BSP stands for Barry Sanders Project.
Since the BAT and Lot Editor were released for SimCity 4, many new buildings have been created. Models of real world stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Outback Steakhouse and The World Trade Center Complex have been created. Other buildings like the Sears Tower and the Seattle Space Needle have also been released by fans. Other custom content includes BART themed rail, subways, monorails, and buses, yearly crop reports, and others.
NDEX—a team of modellers (for the BAT tool), modders and lot-makers (who use the Lot Editor)—is presently one of the largest modification groups, which has helped maintain the popularity of the game with players. NDEX is an acronym for the original members that started the team (N74704, DuskTrooper, and EquinoX; Equinox later represented only the "X" as Eburress joined soon after and became the "E"), and has since grown to 23 members (as of March 2005). NDEX has also provided translations and minor modifications for several Japanese custom lots, most of which are high in quality and creatively designed.
The game is divided into three "modes" of gameplay. The first of which is god mode. In this mode you design the city's land, called terraforming. Terraforming involves the creation of lakes, rivers, mountains, etc. on a 3D grid surface. All of your city's structures are thence upon that surface. The second of the modes is mayor mode, the main mode, in which the actual city creation happens. And lastly there is MySim mode which enables you to drive around your city in chosen vehicles or create MySims. Mysims are sims which you create and place in your city. They give you feedback on life in your city.
There are two main views in SimCity 4. This version is different from its predeccessors because it involves region play. The region is what you start out with. It contains many cities that may be linked using road, rail, highways, etc.
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