|Platform(s)||Archimedes, Electron, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, CDTV, DESQview, MS-DOS, EPOC32, FM Towns, iOS, J2ME, Linux, Mac OS, OLPC XO-1, OS/2, PC-98, SNES, Unix, Windows, X68000, ZX Spectrum|
February 2, 1989
SimCity, also known as Micropolis or SimCity Classic, is a city-building simulation video game developed by Will Wright and released for a number of platforms from 1989 to 1991. SimCity features two-dimensional graphics and an overhead perspective. The objective of the game is to create a city, develop residential and industrial areas, build infrastructure, and collect taxes for further development of the city. Importance is placed on increasing the standard of living of the population, maintaining a balance between the different sectors, and monitoring the region's environmental situation to prevent the settlement from declining and going bankrupt.
SimCity was independently developed by Will Wright, beginning in 1985; the game would not see its first release until 1989. Because the game lacked any of the arcade or action elements that dominated the video game market in the 1980s, video game publishers declined to release the title in fear of its commercial failure, until Brøderbund eventually agreed to distribute it. Although the game initially sold poorly, positive feedback from the gaming press boosted its sales. After becoming a best-seller, SimCity was released on several other platforms, most notably on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1991, in which its gameplay was significantly revised with Nintendo's involvement.
SimCity sold 300,000 units for personal computers and nearly 2 million units for the SNES. SimCity was met with critical acclaim for its innovative and addictive gameplay despite the absence of action elements. Reviewers considered the game to be instructive and helpful toward the player's understanding of the basics of urban planning, politics, and economics. SimCity received numerous awards from news publishers and associations. The success of SimCity marked the beginning of the urban simulation genre of video games, as well as publisher Maxis' tradition of producing non-linear simulation games, one of which – The Sims – would surpass all its predecessors in popularity and become one of the best-selling franchises in the video game industry.
The objective of SimCity is to build and design a city without specific goals to achieve. The player can mark land as being zoned as commercial, industrial, or residential, add buildings, change the tax rate, build a power grid, build transportation systems and take any other actions to enhance the city. Once able to construct buildings in a particular area, the too-small-to-see residents, known as "Sims", may choose to construct and upgrade houses, apartment blocks, light, heavy industrial buildings, commercial buildings, hospitals, churches, and other structures. The Sims make these choices based on such factors as traffic levels, availability of electrical power, crime levels, and proximity to other types of buildings—for example, residential areas next to a power plant will seldom appreciate the highest grade of housing. In the Super NES version and later, the player can also build rewards when they are given, such as the mayor's mansion or a casino.
The player may face disasters including flooding, tornadoes, fires (often from air disasters or shipwrecks), earthquakes and attacks by monsters. In addition, monsters and tornadoes can trigger train crashes by running into passing trains.
SimCity includes goal-centered, timed scenarios that could be won or lost depending on the performance of the player. The scenarios were an addition suggested by Brøderbund to make SimCity more like a game. The original cities were based on real-world cities and attempted to re-create their general layout. While most scenarios either take place in a fictional timeline or have a city under siege by a fictional disaster, a handful of available scenarios are based on actual historical events.
SimCity was developed by game designer Will Wright. While working on the game Raid on Bungeling Bay, in which the player flies a helicopter dropping bombs on islands, Wright found he enjoyed designing the islands in the level editor more than playing the actual game. This led him to develop increasingly sophisticated level editors. At the same time, Wright was cultivating a love of the intricacies and theories of urban planning and acknowledges the influence of System Dynamics which was developed by Jay Wright Forrester and whose book on the subject laid the foundations for what would become SimCity. In addition, Wright also was inspired by reading "The Seventh Sally", a short story from The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem, in which an engineer encounters a deposed tyrant, and creates a miniature city with artificial citizens for the tyrant to oppress. The game reflected Wright's approval of mass transit and disapproval of nuclear power; Maxis president Jeff Braun stated "We're pushing political agendas".
The first version of the game was developed for the Commodore 64 in 1985; it was not published for another four years. The original working title of SimCity was Micropolis. The game was unusual in that it could neither be won or lost; as a result, game publishers did not believe it was possible to market and sell such a game successfully. Brøderbund declined to publish the title when Wright proposed it, and he pitched it to a range of major game publishers without success. Finally, Braun, founder of the tiny software company Maxis, agreed to publish SimCity as one of two initial games for the company.
Wright and Braun returned to Brøderbund to formally clear the rights to the game in 1988, when SimCity was near completion. After Brøderbund executives Gary Carlston and Don Daglow saw SimCity, they signed Maxis to a distribution deal for both of its initial games. With that, four years after initial development, SimCity was released for the Amiga and Macintosh platforms, followed by the IBM PC and Commodore 64 later in 1989.
After the original release on the Amiga and Macintosh, the game was released on the Commodore 64 and IBM PC MS-DOS, and afterwards saw more releases on various computer platforms and video game consoles, specifically the Atari ST, Acorn Archimedes, Amstrad CPC, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (which was later released on Virtual Console), EPOC32, mobile phone, Internet, Windows, FM-Towns, OLPC XO-1 and NeWS HyperLook on Sun Unix. The game is available as a multiplayer version for X11 Tcl/Tk on various Unix, Linux, DESQview and OS/2 operating systems.
Shortly after the game's initial release, Maxis released the SimCity Terrain Editor for the original versions of the game, which was sold as a mail-order add-on in North America but gained a standalone retail release in Europe. The Terrain Editor is a simple tool that allows the user to create maps with forest, land, and water portions. In 1990, Maxis developed two 'Graphics Sets' packs for the MS-DOS and Amiga versions: "Ancient Cities" and "Future Cities". Each pack contained 3 sets which changed the graphics and messages in the game to fit certain themes.
In 1991, an enhanced version of the game was released for Windows 3.0/3.1. It runs in the Windows GDI with new sounds and music, either PC-Speaker type or digital/MIDI type. In 1992, to coincide with other re-releases of their games, Maxis re-released the Windows version of SimCity as "SimCity Classic", which bundled the game with the MS-DOS version of the Terrain Editor. The Graphics Sets were also reissued to run on Windows 3.1 as well. SimCity Classic was re-released in 1993 as part of the SimClassics Volume 1 compilation alongside SimAnt and SimLife for PC, Mac and Amiga. In 1995, a Windows 95 compatible version of the game titled "SimCity Deluxe CD-ROM" was released, which included new 256-color graphics and sound, and bundled the Graphics Sets and an updated Terrain Editor together with the base game.
In 1994, Interplay Productions developed and published under license from Maxis a version of the game titled "SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM" for DOS, which included 256 color graphics and FMV movies that would trigger events.
The original DOS version of SimCity supports a variety of graphics modes. SimCity v1.00 runs in CGA monochrome 640x200, EGA color 320x200, Tandy 640x200 mode, Hercules 720x348 mono, and EGA 640x350 in color or mono. v1.07 added MCGA 640x480 mono. A later v2.00 DOS release (SimCity 'Classic') dropped all of the old 200-line modes, added VGA 640x480 color, and a special VGA/MCGA 320x200 256-color mode.
SimCity for the SNES features the same gameplay and scenario features; however, since it was developed and published by Nintendo, the company incorporated their own ideas. Instead of the Godzilla monster disaster, Bowser of the Super Mario series becomes the attacking monster, and once the city reaches a landmark 500,000 populace, the player receives a Mario statue that is placeable in the city. The SNES port also features special buildings the player may receive as rewards, such as casinos, large parks, amusement parks, and expo centers; some of which would be incorporated into SimCity 2000. A bank can be built which will allow a loan of $10,000 to be taken, but it must be paid back before another loan can be taken out. The game includes schools and hospitals, though they cannot be placed by the player; instead, the game will sometimes turn an empty residential lot into one. There are city classifications, such as becoming a metropolis of 100,000 people. It has some of the same pre-set scenarios in the PC and Mac versions and two new ones. One is in Las Vegas under attack by aliens and another is called Freeland. Freeland has no water, and no rewards buildings are given. Also unique to the Super NES version is a character named "Dr. Wright" (whose physical appearance is based on Will Wright) who acts as an adviser to the player. The soundtrack was composed by Soyo Oka. The edition is featured as Nintendo's Player's Choice as a million-seller.
In August 1996, a version of the game entitled BS SimCity Machizukuri Taikai was broadcast to Japanese players via the Super Famicom's Satellaview subsystem. Later, a sequel titled SimCity 64 was released for Nintendo 64DD, the Japan-only Nintendo 64 add-on.
A version for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was announced alongside the SNES version and had been showcased at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, but the NES version was never properly released. However, prototype cartridges for the NES version were discovered in 2017, and one copy was obtained by video game preservationist Frank Cifaldi, who extensively documented its features compared to the original personal computer game and the SNES version. It featured a completely different soundtrack (also composed by Oka) from that of the SNES version; besides Metropolis Theme, a composition that Oka herself considers one of her best works.
In January 2008, the SimCity source code was released as free software under the GPL-3.0-or-later license, renamed to Micropolis (the original working title) for trademark reasons, and developed by Don Hopkins. The release of the source code was motivated by the One Laptop Per Child program. The Micropolis source code has been translated to C++, integrated with Python and interfaced with both GTK+ and OpenLaszlo.
Since Micropolis is licensed under the GPL-3.0-or-later, users can do anything they want with it that conforms with the GPL-3.0-or-later – the only restriction is that they cannot call it "SimCity" (along with a few other limitations to protect EA's trademarks). This allows other, differently named projects to be forked from the Micropolis source code. Improvements to the open-source code base that merit EA's approval may be incorporated into the official "OLPC SimCity" source code, to be distributed with the OLPC under the trademarked name OLPC SimCity, but only after it has been reviewed and approved by EA.
|Platform||Version – Release date||Comments|
||Alongside SimCity for the Macintosh, this was the first commercially released version of SimCity. It ran on any Amiga with at least 512 kilobytes of memory and was distributed on a single floppy disk.|
|V.2.0||This version has been enhanced with the ability to switch tilesets. A tileset consists of all the images the game uses to draw the city, and by changing the tileset one can give the city a different look and feel. The graphics support up to 64 colors in Extra Halfbrite mode.
Because of this new functionality, SimCity 2 requires at least 1MB of memory, twice that of the original version.
|To make the game more pleasant to play when viewed on a distant television, this version of the game shows a closer view of the city. Other changes include a user interface more suited for use from the CDTV's remote control, use CD-DA for music, and the addition of three scenarios.|
|Amstrad CPC||V.1.0 – |
Sim City Amstrad CPC
|Atari ST||V.1.0 –
Sim City Atari ST
|This version features scenarios but has no music and the game's graphics are less colorful than the graphics of the Amiga version 2.0.|
||This version lacks music, many sound effects, most animation and has limited colour palettes, but has most of the features of the Amiga version, in spite of having to run in 25K of memory.|
|Commodore 64||V.1.0 –||This version lacks police/fire stations, stadiums and railways. Disasters are limited to earthquakes. It also forgoes the stat screen useful for evaluating the city's development. The player can select between eight scenarios or on randomly generated terrain.|
|Macintosh||V.1.0 –||Released in two versions: monochrome and color. Copy-protection 'red-sheet' with symbols that is queried at game start. Repackaged edition released in 1991 with the cover printed on the game box (without sleeve over the box).|
|V.1.1||Copy protection removed.|
|Macintosh - Classic –
||Windows and Macintosh CD-ROM version released as part of Collector's series. Supports System 6.0.2 and System 7.|
|PC||MS-DOS – 1.00 ~ 1.07||Features EGA color graphics in both low-resolution 320x200 and high-resolution 640x350, as well as monochrome EGA 640x350, CGA 640x200, and Hercules 720x348. v1.07 added MCGA 640x480 mono. Limited sound effects through the PC speaker, Tandy DAC, or rare Covox SoundMaster. Has a copy-protection 'red-sheet' with symbols that is queried at game start. Capable of running on an IBM PC 5150 with 512KB RAM and ONE 5-1/4" floppy drive (no hard drive required).|
|MS-DOS - Classic – v2.00
||Re-released for MS-DOS as version 2.00. Copyright protection was removed and added support for VGA 640x480 in color, and a special VGA/MCGA 320x200 in 256 color mode. Dropped Covox sound support and added standard SoundBlaster digital sound and MIDI background music. Terrain Editor is now integrated right into the main program interface, can switch back and forth with a single key-stroke.
Addons: New standalone Terrain Editor for DOS and 6 graphics sets.
|Windows - Classic –
||Released for Windows 3.1 with new sounds and music, either PC-Speaker type or digital/MIDI type. The interface has floating toolbars, and bookmarks to save positions of note in the city to return to later. The PC Speaker sounds and music are quite innovative, the music is based on a Bach violin solo. The simulator engine appears to have a few subtle differences, such as hi-value residential zones that stay as small houses in the DOS versions, when loaded into the Windows version instantly turn into hi-value hi-rises.
Terrain Editor for DOS included. Addons are the 6 graphics sets.
|Enhanced CD-ROM –
||Released by Interplay Productions for DOS, it featured 256-color graphics, new music and sound effects and added FMV movie cutscenes and news reports.|
|Deluxe CD-ROM –
||SimCity Deluxe CD-ROM - Re-released in 1995 for Windows 95 with new 256-color graphics and sound, all 6 graphics sets, and new Terrain Editor. Works in Win XP and Win 7.|
|Super NES||Developed and Published by Nintendo under license by Maxis, the Super NES version of SimCity had additional features not found in the original SimCity, including graphics changing to match the seasons (trees are green in summer, turn rusty brown in the fall, white in the winter, and bloom as cherry blossoms in the spring), civic reward buildings, and a very energetic green-haired city advisor named Dr. Wright (after Will Wright), who would often pop up and inform the player of problems with their city. In addition, the Super NES version of SimCity had two additional bonus scenarios, accessible when the original scenarios were completed: Las Vegas and Freeland (see the section on scenarios). The style of the buildings also resembles those in Japan rather than those of North America.
A Nintendo Entertainment System port was also planned but was cancelled.
Nintendo also put their stamp on the game, with a dangerous disaster being Bowser attack on a city (in place of a generic movie-type monster), and a Mario statue awarded once the megalopolis level of 500,000 inhabitants is reached.
|ZX Spectrum||V.1.0 – 1989||Has all the features (such as scenarios, crime, and disasters) of later versions of the game, but with much more limited sound and graphics.|
SimCity was a financial success, selling one million copies by late 1992. In the United States, it was the ninth best-selling computer game from 1993 to 1999, with another 830,000 units sold. It was critically acclaimed and received significant recognition within a year after its initial release. As of December 1990, the game was reported to have won the following awards:
In addition, SimCity won the Origins Award for "Best Military or Strategy Computer Game" of 1989 in 1990, was named to Computer Gaming World's Hall of Fame for games readers highly rated over time, and the multiplayer X11 version of the game was also nominated in 1992 as the Best Product of the Year in Unix World. Macworld named the Macintosh version of SimCity the Best Simulation Game of 1989, putting it into the Macintosh Game Hall of Fame. Macworld, in their review, praised its graphics as well as its strategic gameplay, calling it "A challenging, dynamic game, realistic and unpredictable", and notes how "as the population grows the city's needs change." SimCity was named No. 4 "Ten Greatest PC Game Ever" by PC World in 2009. It was named one of the sixteen most influential games in history at Telespiel, a German technology and games trade show, in 2007. Sid Meier in 2008 named SimCity as one of the three most important innovations in videogame history, as it led to other games that encouraged players to create, not destroy. It was named No. 11 on IGN's 2009 "Top 25 PC Games of All Time" list. In 1996, Computer Gaming World declared SimCity the 6th-best computer game ever released. In 2018, Complex rated SimCity 50th on its "The Best Super Nintendo Games of All Time." In 1995, Total! listed SimCity 89th on their "Top 100 SNES Games." IGN ranked the game 35th in its "Top 100 SNES Games of All Time."
Mike Siggins reviewed SimCity for Games International magazine, and gave it 5 stars out of 5, and stated that "Overall, SimCity must be ranked right up there in the all-time Amiga classics. It is the first title that I have come across to turn a 'serious' theme into a passable simulation while also making for an excellent game."
Entertainment Weekly gave the game an B+.
Johnny L. Wilson reviewed the game for Computer Gaming World, and stated that "Dynamic is exactly the right word for this product. There is constant strategy involved in the placement of zones, road building, political decision-making, and damage control."
In 1991, PC Format named SimCity one of the 50 best computer games ever. The editors called it "a town planner's dream".
The University of Southern California and University of Arizona used SimCity in urban planning and political science classes. Chuck Moss of The Detroit News found that Godzilla attacking the city in the 1972 Detroit scenario caused less destruction than the mayoralty of Coleman Young. In 1990 The Providence Journal invited five candidates for Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island to manage a SimCity town resembling the city. Victoria Lederberg blamed her close loss in the Democratic primary on the newspaper's description of her poor performance in the game; former mayor Buddy Cianci, the most successful player, won the election that year.
The SimCity Terrain Editor was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon No. 147 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the expansion 4 out of 5 stars.
The ZX Spectrum version was voted number 4 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time.
In 2004, SimCity was inducted into GameSpot's list of the greatest games of all time.
On March 12, 2007, The New York Times reported that SimCity was named to a list of the ten most important video games of all time, the so-called game canon. The Library of Congress took up a video game preservation proposal and began with the games from this list, including SimCity.
SimCity yielded several sequels. "Sim" games of many types were developed – with Will Wright and Maxis developing myriad titles including SimEarth, SimFarm, SimTown, Streets of SimCity, SimCopter, SimAnt, SimLife, SimIsle, SimTower, SimPark, SimSafari, and The Sims, which spawned its own series, as well as the unreleased SimsVille and SimMars. They also obtained licenses for some titles developed in Japan, such as SimTower and Let's Take The A-Train (released as A-Train outside Japan). Spore, released in 2008, was originally going to be titled "SimEverything" – a name that Will Wright thought might accurately describe what he was trying to achieve.
SimCity inspired a new genre of video games. "Software toys" that were open-ended with no set objective were developed trying to duplicate SimCity's success. The most successful was most definitely Wright's own The Sims, which went on to be the best selling computer game of all time. The ideas pioneered in SimCity have been incorporated into real-world applications as well, as urban developers have recognized that the game's design was "gamification" of city planning by integrating numerous real-world systems for a city or region interacted to project growth or change. For example, VisitorVille simulates a city based on website statistics. Several real-world city improvement projects started with models inspired by SimCity prior to implementation, particularly with the onset of more connected smart cities.
The series also spawned a SimCity collectible card game, produced by Mayfair Games. Rick Swan reviewed SimCity: The Card Game for Dragon magazine No. 221 (September 1995). Swan says that "While the card game doesn't scale the heights of the computer game, it comes close."
Dr. Wright from the Super NES version has made appearances in several video games. He is a non-player character in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and an assist trophy in the Super Smash Bros. series.