An Interview with SimCity Buildit Developers

Gamers are being invited into a rich world of fantasy and strategy with SimCity Buildit,  courtesy of EA Games. Boasting a range of twelve worlds and well over a hundred maps in its grimoires, SimCity Buildit should keep strategists immersed in its world for some time. The game invites a player to choose a city and use it to build the best out of it. All of the usual suspects from simulation games are present in the highly detailed environments — buildings, sims, and environment will all be cropping up in the towns and villages which players can explore, conquer, and design.

Of obvious interest to those of us who played out our fantasies with pen and paper RPGs, SimCity Buildit boasts a simultaneous gameplay mode. With 12 players each taking the role of one of the available cities to action. Although it’s not strictly real-time, it’s as close as anyone has come with a game as immersive as this. Is this the missing link that will conjoin the two similar but disparate genres of real-time and turn-based strategy?

SimCity Buildit is fully complete with the new hack system found in this link. Basically we were just tweaking the artificial intelligence and the game balance to the end. We got a lot of good feedback from the demo that we released and from our own internal testers, and we’re quite happy with the final product we’ll release.

Simultaneous player mode. We really feel we got the feature to work in the game, and it provides a multiplayer experience we feel was somewhat lacking in other turn-based games on the market.

Primarily we designed it still as a turn-based game. So although it’s more similar to RTS, we still see it as a turn-based game that has something extra. Anything on top of the turn-based game is an extra. We have the standard turn-based crowd, and anyone we can snatch from the RTS crowd is cool. There is very fierce competition — a lot of people think that the RTS genre is pretty saturated, and maybe something like SimCity Buildit is something different to change that. It’s not an RTS game, but maybe some people who are sick of the cloning that is going on in that genre will appreciate something like this that offers more depth. We’ll have to see what happens.

There’s a few things. For example, I’d love to have made a random scenario generator. That is an important feature for hard-core players. We’d maybe like to release these as extras in the future, but not just yet. That might be looking a bit too far away. We’ll see what happens. Being honest it all comes down to how many game units have been sold. Plus, we’ve been working on this for so long, if anyone came up and asked us to do more it’d be like ‘No more!’

In terms of turn-based games, there are a few competitors that fall into the same category but the gameplay is different. Mainly I suppose there’s the add-on pack that will be out the same time. Plus, we’ll get competition from games like Cities XXL, but there is always this competition around the season.

Mainly the sheer size of the project. There’s so much customization, and although it’s very complex we’ve also added a tutorial to guide people in. We also really tried to get, in the sense of novels, this epic storyline feel. Console play would be very hard, so probably not. Even RTS games like Command and Conquer don’t translate extremely well to consoles. The mouse is not standard for those games. Also, SimCity Buildit will run in a very high resolution, which is very nice to see. On console all the little details would be lost. It’s not likely — I’m not saying no, but I’d certainly say it’s not likely.

Alien Resurrection – In Depth Review

With the possible exception of the Star Wars trilogy, no sci-fi film series seems to have as much rich potential for an easy translation as 20th Century Fox’s Alien films. Gritty sci-fi cool, a gripping storyline, gorgeously gruesome visuals and excessive gunfire should make for an equally engaging interactive experience, but capturing all (if any) of those elements in a videogame has historically proven to be as pesky a pest as, well, an alien with acid for blood. There have been a few exceptions, of course, but Alien Resurrection — like the movie that inspired it — doesn’t quite make the cut.

Everything here is straight-up first-person shooter fare – which, in the case of the PSX, hasn’t always meant a lot. Gamers are required to make their way through miles and miles of metal scaffolding and tunnels, shooting aliens, acquiring keys and backtracking all along the way. The game begins on the decks of the USM Auriga, where a cloned Ripley awakes to find the ship in the midst of an experiment gone terribly wrong. The long-term goal involves exterminating the alien plague and escaping the doomed spaceship, which is where the aforementioned backtracking comes into play. Along the way, she encounters numerous adversaries in the form of marines, sentry tanks, an Alien Queen and even the freakish human/alien hybrid seen at the film’s conclusion.

Of course, Ripley doesn’t have to go at it alone — all of the characters from the film make an appearance, and several crewmembers of the Betty, a mercenary freighter, are playable at appropriate times. Some of these, such as the android Call, have their own specialized weapons to accompany a standard complement of weaponry, which includes shotguns, pulse rifles and the rocket launcher. Gameplay certainly won’t offend, but it’s nowhere near as smooth as what gamers have come to expect from their shooters. Particularly niggling is the jerky targeting, which is handled by the Dual Shock’s right analog stick — with no run feature available, lining up a bead on a squad of marines (who don’t even move around much) can fast become an exercise in livid frustration. This, coupled with unforgiving (difficult) gameplay parameters, is sure to keep the player locked in for hours, although we don’t quite mean that in the best way.

Visually, the game is fine — with the requisite stretches of shadowy corridor, nice steam, spark and smoke effects and that nauseating bobbing animation as players make their way down the hall (although, admittedly, this can be turned off.) The levels are massive and load directly from the disc (cutting out that dreaded load time), but after a few hours of dark tunnels we found ourselves wishing they’d been pared down or spiced up just a bit. Character animations are generally lacking in polish or dynamism — even those of the aliens themselves. It’s a bad sign when the animated aliens rendered on a PlayStation fail to chill us as much as a rubber-suited actor from a film that’s nearly a quarter century old. The sound effects are actually slick and quite spooky, and judicious use of the Dual Shock’s rumble feature adds as much to the suspense as the plodding pace.

What’s most problematic is that the game’s developers have chosen to stick so closely to the story of the film, which was generally accepted as a less than stellar fourth outing for Ripley and those dogged chestbursters. For some strange reason, game publishers insist on releasing what amounts to little more than a skeletal outline of a story, fleshed out with the actual game in between. And frankly, who wants to read/play through a movie they’ve most likely already seen? Of course, such standardized translations are a frequent occurrence in a time when “games” are churned out for every conceivable license and franchise – it’s a wonder we haven’t already seen a Starbucks game yet. Which is not to say it’s not coming.

It’s not that there’s anything significantly wrong with this game, but it’s such a banal misuse of a popular franchise that its mediocrity really shines through. It’s had a long history of being held up — having once been designed as a third-person shooter — and, as is often the case with these delays, the final product isn’t on par with similar titles we’d spend our money on. We love Aliens, we love first-person shooters and we love the PlayStation — but precious little about this title, much like the movie that it’s based upon, makes us want to visit it a second time.