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Glassbox Engine: Scenario 1 (Economics of Zones)

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View the video here.

Hello simulation fans! First off, thanks for all your positive responses to our first video. The team here at Maxis is thrilled to be able to share these videos with you. We hope they demonstrate the depth of simulation we’re delivering.
GlassBox is an incredibly powerful simulation engine built by Andrew Willmott, our chief architect at Maxis. He designed it to be elegant, data driven, and to power Maxis-style simulation games - providing a simulation toolkit like none other. As gameplay lead, my job is to take this toolkit and work with the team to create the most alive, tactile, and fun city game ever created - the mother of all city simulation games - SimCity!

In the next few weeks we’re going to be releasing three more videos, each focusing on a few core areas of SimCity and the simulation driving the gameplay. Today’s video is all about the economic loop of the game. What is the relationship between residential, commercial, and industrial buildings in this SimCity? Looking back, each previous version of SimCity had a magic formula for determining the balance of these buildings. Like a lot of the features in this game, we wanted to modernize and refresh the original concept while keeping true to the spirit of the older games, and that was especially true of the economic loop.

Looking at the industrial buildings in the video, they are set to open for business at 6 AM. When the buildings open and realize they don’t have workers, they send out “help wanted” agents that travel down the paths, requesting workers. One thing we skipped over in the video is that there’s actually two different kinds of ‘help wanted’ agents, one that requests people to walk to work and one that requests people to drive to work. The walking requester goes first, and has a shorter distance (a few blocks) than the driving requester. This means that with some foresight and planning you can build fully walkable cities. By playing around with the positioning of industrial/commercial versus residential zoning, you’ll notice commuting patterns unique to your city layout. We’ve found that the organic flow of commuter agents through a city is pretty mesmerizing and a lot fun to play around with. Since you will be drawing the roads and laying out zones, one of the measures of your success is how efficiently the city operates as population increases. For example: Are there enough jobs for residents? Do factories have enough workers? Are stores kept supplied with goods? Of course, you could also just torch the place, that’s fun too.

The other important aspect we’re demonstrating in this video is that simulation rules are tied directly to effects and animation. You can see examples of that when the industrial buildings spew pollution into the air. The rule writing to the air pollution map is literally the same rule triggering the smoke VFX and audio. Same with the factory producing goods, and the conveyor belt animation. We’ve found that by tightly coupling the feedback to the rules, we’re able to convey more information to the player by watching their city run, instead of having to rely as much on 2D user interface.

Check back soon, next time we’ll address how the simulation deals with water, pollution, and sickness.




12 Comments

Can't spread everything out that much now can we. This is great, I can't wait to see what else there is :D
Hopefully they will show some videos that will show us how the graphcs in the game will look because if the graphics are anything compared to the graphics in the videos, I'll be very dissapoited. The graphics in cities xl look better than this.
I would like a playable demo, before I decide to spend the money
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AnorexicPickle
Apr 07, 2012 - 10:20 AM
So what does this mean? Sims don't have jobs at places, they just answer to help wanted requests?
@jebus22 I don't think we'll see these kinds of videos just yet. SC5 is still in its early stages of development and I think they'll focus on graphics a bit later on.
@Sszecret

if its releasing in a years time (give or take a few months) then the game is probably 80-90% done.. not "in early stages"

I suspect we'll see a real gameplay video on E3
so just a few more months!
I'm glad that the industrial zones are directly tied to the commercial zones. It didnt make sense having freight go nowhere to the edge of the map.
I hope that in addition to the industry/commerce relation, there will also still be an adequate import/export mechanism. I, as mayor, don't feel I have any obligation to look for buyers/sellers of goods outside of my city for my city's businesses. That's the businessman's job.
So this looks to be a simulation which will 'refresh' itself every 24 hours. Meaning, no sim will be a permanent entity which develops in a progressive way throughout his/her life or the life of the city. The entire municipal complex will recreate itself anew with each working day, and no sim will have a permanent job.

Obviously the simulation mechanics are a vast improvement on SC4. However for some reason I can't help but wonder when the time will come when a city simulation will be able to retain the characteristics of each individual member of the population, and allow that member to evolve and develop over time in tandem with the development of his neighborhood/city.

I just don't feel there's any sense of 'permanence' to the home/work model. Every morning each sim is hired anew, and fired in the evening. Given current computational limitations, does it have to be this way?

So this looks to be a simulation which will 'refresh' itself every 24 hours. Meaning, no sim will be a permanent entity which develops in a progressive way throughout his/her life or the life of the city. The entire municipal complex will recreate itself anew with each working day, and no sim will have a permanent job.

Obviously the simulation mechanics are a vast improvement on SC4. However for some reason I can't help but wonder when the time will come when a city simulation will be able to retain the characteristics of each individual member of the population, and allow that member to evolve and develop over time in tandem with the development of his neighborhood/city.

I just don't feel there's any sense of 'permanence' to the home/work model. Every morning each sim is hired anew, and fired in the evening. Given current computational limitations, does it have to be this way?


Don't focus on what the simulation is doing, but its results. Why do a highly complex detailed simulation when a simplified form gives you the same, or very similar, results?

drdru7029, on , said:

So this looks to be a simulation which will 'refresh' itself every 24 hours. Meaning, no sim will be a permanent entity which develops in a progressive way throughout his/her life or the life of the city. The entire municipal complex will recreate itself anew with each working day, and no sim will have a permanent job.

Obviously the simulation mechanics are a vast improvement on SC4. However for some reason I can't help but wonder when the time will come when a city simulation will be able to retain the characteristics of each individual member of the population, and allow that member to evolve and develop over time in tandem with the development of his neighborhood/city.

I just don't feel there's any sense of 'permanence' to the home/work model. Every morning each sim is hired anew, and fired in the evening. Given current computational limitations, does it have to be this way?

Don't focus on what the simulation is doing, but its results. Why do a highly complex detailed simulation when a simplified form gives you the same, or very similar, results?



My answer to that would be "I suppose you're right, but still..."

I mean in terms of the end effect of the simulation from a macro perspective I agree. Basically the same results. But the difference would lay in the evolutionary trends I could extrapolate if citizens were more 'permanent'. For example, I could see which neighborhoods have the longest-residing residents, what the job turnover rate is for different neighborhoods, etc. I could even track the life of sims residing in different neighborhoods in my city. It would be an extra layer of depth that I would find very satisfying.

It's a small gripe which will be overshadowed by other advantages I'm sure. I just look forward to the day when this kind of progressive evolution becomes possible in a longer-lived simulation structure.
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AnorexicPickle
Apr 10, 2012 - 04:34 PM
I'm with this Dr. Dru. an impressive simulation, to me, is one that simulates a sim moving into your city and finding a home based on what job they're qualified for. And then if they lose that job for some reason, finding a new job based on where they live. And if they were to lose that house, they'd find another one based on their income and where their job is. It's basically how SC4's simulation was represented (a simulation of a simulation I suppose).