The game's architects say they are working with an unidentified "green" developer to integrate cutting-edge sustainable design principles into the new game, ensuring that, if players want to build a net-energy-neutral city, it will be possible to do so. Public transportation, bike-only streets and energy-efficient building codes will all be at players' disposal, they say.
To green, or not to green
SimCity's player base -- the game has sold more than 20 million copies to date -- is as diverse as the global populace itself, and sustainable design concepts won't necessarily be attractive for all participants. Half the fun of the original SimCity, after all, was sowing mayhem -- unleashing an 80-foot monster lizard in the middle of downtown, for example, always added a classy end-of-game twist.
True to that tradition, the new, amped-up version offers players the freedom to choose the destiny of their civilizations: whether to build a clean, self-contained urban metropolis founded on principles of sustainability, or a sprawling, gas-guzzling hub that pumps out smog and sewage. That flexibility, the game's architects hope, will present players with a chance to experience real-world dilemmas.
"We're doing our best to model real systems ... so that you'll understand something of how they actually work. And you'll make the tradeoffs that real cities have to make," wrote Quigley.
"For example: sure coal is filthy and will sicken and kill [virtual residents] who live down-wind, but man is it cheap! And it makes plenty of power! And it works at night! And when the wind doesn't blow! Sure, I can put up with air pollution and increased mortality for that!" he added.
Because the game is participatory, however -- players "share" virtual worlds via the Internet -- decisions made in one city affect others. Sewage pumped into a shared waterway can have health effects on a downstream population, and air quality is affected by all players in the region. There are even rumors that climate change may appear as a "macro-level" pollution effect.
The integration of environmental principles has raised complaints among a small minority of fans. "Why did the big SimCity announcement turn into a infomercial for An Inconvenient Truth?" griped one, referring to former Vice President Al Gore's 2006 climate change movie.
But in general, the concept of integrated sustainable-design principles seems well-received by a fan base that, in large part, has been with the franchise for decades. "I became an urban planner / urban designer because I have played SimCity my whole life and was deeply inspired by it," wrote one. "Please Maxis ... make it possible to create an amazing city with beautiful and functional streets, public realm and public transit (light rail transit included)."
If the old SimCity could nurture a generation of urban planners, perhaps its newest rendition will inspire tomorrow's natural resource managers and environmental engineers, as well.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500