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Ocean Quigley: city size limits in SimCity are a performance trade-off

22 Jan 2013  by   Peter Parrish
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A sticking point about the new SimCity among long-term fans of the series has been the smaller areas present in the game for constructing your works of metropolitan wonder.

I asked Creative Director Ocean Quigley about the reasons for the more restrictive size limits, and whether they were a result of the challenges presented by working with the new GlassBox Engine.

“The most important thing about SimCity is the depth and fidelity of the simulation underneath it,” Quigley says. “So it’s a matter of trade-offs. The game has to run smoothly on ordinary computers, and I decided that it’s better to make cities with dense activity and visual detail over cities that are sprawling, but low resolution and inert.”

GlassBox, he told me, is simulating each building, car and Sim independently. A city in the new game is built out of “layered systems” all of which are simulating together.

“Of course, I’d like to have it all! More space to build would be better!” he adds.

“Computers will get more powerful in the future, allowing us to create bigger cities, but getting the simulation right is fundamental.”


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  1. SCMofo

    I completely agree to this. Prioritize the simulation. If someone simply wants a large city without (or barely) any living simulation, then that person is better off editing Google Maps.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:27 am

    1. psyounger

      I think there has to be a balance, too small and fun-factor could go, too large and the sim part is less sim.I just hope the balance is spot-on :)

      January 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    2. dugan6415

      there doesnt need to be a trade off forced upon the users. let those of us with beefy desktop machines run large cities now. I highly doubt that this game will tax my rig. no child left behind doesnt work in school, and it certainly doesnt work for video games. this is more about culling sheep than creating a engaging game.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      1. psyounger

        I agree I could handle this too, need some way to allow both features and size.

        January 22, 2013 at 7:21 pm
  2. I had wondered this myself when watching the videos before Xmas. I like to build sprawling cities but the simulation is more important.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm
  3. Alright. Here’s a scenario: The game launches, and you see it utilizing 1 processor and not even using it fully. If that happens, what are we suppose to take from it? Better not happen. PC gamers aren’t clueless sheep. Also SimCity 4.

    January 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    1. Flacwby

      If you have an i7 processor this is likely to happen. Remember this is designed for those gamers that don’t have great machines.

      January 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      1. Mr. Burd

        Well, shit.

        January 22, 2013 at 8:56 pm

  4. DavidTheSlayer

    I agree, greater simulation and AI are needed, especailly for total war series for example, AI that obeys the rules without cheating would be nice. I think AI is one of the hardest topics in game development.

    January 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm

  5. JamesYesThatJames

    Of course you could leave it up to the user to select their city size based on their rig, but with EA supposedly taking on a lot of the computation load on the server side as a justification for always on DRM, I wonder if they are limiting city size to protect server load.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:39 am

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