SimCity Returns: Maxis Calls PC Game ‘Rebirth of Franchise’

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Concept art from EA/Maxis' SimCity 2013.

SimCity! It’s back! Or wait, did it ever really leave? Okay, it’s been a while — five years in fact, back when EA outsourced its city-sculpting series to Children of the Nile developer Tilted Mill and released something called SimCity Societies, an attempt to take the game mainstream that some said alienated traditionalists (those darned traditionalists!). Either way, call it a half-decade hiatus then.

Enter SimCity. No really, just SimCity, like when you remake an old-school movie and crib the name unadorned — simple, straightforward, unambiguous. Only this isn’t a remake, it’s “a true rebirth of the franchise,” according to publisher EA and developer Maxis’ press release.

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There’s obviously still going to be a drive to make it as accessible as possible, but EA and Maxis claim the reboot “brings the depth of simulation that has been the series hallmark for more than two decades and marries it with next generation accessibility and a robust multiplayer mode, giving players the power to change a world together.”

The emphasis this time appears to be on multiplayer, judging from the initial info-dump. Imagine building “a world that co-exists alongside friends,” in which the choices you make in your city have “long-lasting repercussions that will extend beyond [your] city limits.” You’ll be grappling with “real global challenges such as climate change, the search for renewable resources and natural disasters,” and have to choose “whether to compete or collaborate” with your fellow metropolitan masons.

“Everything you see in the world we sim,” writes EA/Maxis. “Sims in each city will have jobs or can lose them, buy homes, be prosperous or be an economic drain on the city. SimCity is the city builder in which every choice powers real change that affects the character of your city, the state of your region and fellow players within the entire SimCity world. Original fans and newcomers alike will relish the opportunity to build visually and functionally unique cities that take on the character of their choices.”

The original SimCity debuted in 1989, the work of studio legend Will Wright, and the guy who went on to design the most popular single-player PC game in history, The Sims. Wright’s not involved in the remake, but Maxis senior vice president Lucy Bradshaw — who worked as executive producer with Wright on his final EA/Maxis game, Spore — is (Maxis’ last in-house-developed SimCity was SimCity 4 in 2003). You wouldn’t expect today’s Maxis to look much like 1989′s Maxis, nor should series vets expect this new version of the game to feel exactly like it did two decades ago, but then I suspect all fans are hoping for at this point is that it be as compulsively playable as those first few memorable games were.

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