Shacknews - Kat Bailey

SimCity creative director Ocean Quigley is not the type to obsess over building a perfect replica of New York City. He is not obsessed with building the perfect seaport or an accurate toll road. Having been the art director for the series going back to at least SimCity 4, his background is in art, which may explain why he tends to paint his worlds in broad and colorful strokes.

"I don't have a top-level philosophy on how things should go or how things need to go. I'm more of a tinkerer and an experimenter with it," he muses, "so it's more important to me to get a somewhat plausible representation of the systems that make up a city than to have a particular agenda about what cities should be like or need to be like."

For some, the lack of true fidelity is a major sticking point. For others, it's finding out what really makes a city tick within the context of making an enjoyable game. And it also provides some insight into Maxis' decision to make SimCity online-only, beyond the obvious desire to limit piracy.

Among other things, Quigley wants to take the opportunity track the flow of resources out of the global marketplace and through the city. Things like purchasing oil off the global exchange once the local wells run dry, for example, or exporting jobs to the neighboring city because there isn't enough room for commercial development.

"You can think of [resources] as the metabolism of the city. So instead of just being decoration, I wanted to have individual people be tracked as they go through the city. I wanted to track the flow of resources that make, for example, power work. Where does the coal come from? How does it get transported to the power plant?" Quigley says. "We wanted to make decisions about the efficiency versus the pollution of the power planet, and I wanted to track the flow of the electricity through the system to people's houses. I wanted resources that we could keep track of, that we could count, that let you substitute for and manipulate. So that was one of the biggies."

The genesis of some of that was in SimCity 4, which commenced development way back in 1998. Late in the project, Quigley says, he came up with the notion of regions and found a way to implement them into the game. Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of time to truly flesh them out: "We didn't know how we were going to render them, represent them, or connect them to one another."

Workers weren't being tracked as resources as they went into the city to work, nor was the flow of electricity or other commodities. Quigley wanted to change that, which in turn helped pave the way for the franchise's reliance on server-side integration that has caused so much consternation among the fans.

"Previous Sim Cities weren't resource and transactionally based games, so they could be completely self-contained. In the new SimCity, a bunch of the region stuff, and of course the global market, are being simulated here on the servers at Maxis," Quigley says.

In turn, the decision to simulate the flow of goods and services nudged SimCity toward a more cooperative experience. Friends can take control of another spot in a region and develop it, cut a deal to send some ambulances across the way for a few extra Simoleons, and provide a commercial district for Sims who are willing to commute. From there, something resembling a bona fide economy can begin to take shape, even if it's only being painted in broad strokes.

Among fans though, the decision to focus more on multiplayer hasn't been an especially popular one. They fear that they will lose the kind of control that they had grown used to having in previous SimCitys. Among other things, modding won't be available at launch, though Quigley has said in separate interviews that the team will be looking into it ("We're very cognizant of that--we're not idiots," he said last year).

For those worried that the single-player experience will be thrown out with the bathwater, Quigley responds: "I think [single-player] is a legitimate and probably fairly popular play style. But one of the cool things about this SimCity is that you can experiment with playing with friends if you want, and in a way that's not terribly threatening. You're inviting friends into your region, or you're inviting other people into your region. It's not as if you're being thrown into the shark pool of the Internet. This is a private but social play space."

He adds: "You want to avail yourself of the technology of your time. We don't want to be historical re-enactors of what 1998 was like; we want to make a game of our era, and a big chunk of our era is connectivity, doing things with other people, and relating to what other people are doing."

What will be interesting is how online-integration affects SimCity going forward. In a way, the reboot is really just a skeleton. Quigley describes the parts they've put in place as "composable." Instead of being "a giant, monolithic object that's impossible to change, we built it out of components you can accumulate, change, and grow." From the sound of it, Maxis wants to establish SimCity as a platform that they can build and develop for many years to come, not unlike The Sims 3.

One difference though is that SimCity won't be awash with virtual goods, at least not at first. Asked whether some sort of additional monetization might be making an appearance, Quigley laughed, "What would we sell? More coal?"

Having spent a day with SimCity, it's easy to leave some of the cynicism about the project at the door. The general impression is that the online-only integration stems in part from Maxis' desire to have as many tools at their disposal as possible, whether as a content delivery system or as a means for delivering on Quigley's vision of a global marketplace. Inevitably, it will rub some long-time fans the wrong way. But one leaves with the sense that we're only scratching the surface with what Maxis can do with SimCity over the next several years, and that online integration is a big part of that.

Shacknews - Tyler J. Smith

January 24, 2013, blah blah, Late Night Computing.

Somebody, somewhere, please do something with the Homeworld property. Please? Pretty please? I stumbled onto my Homeworld and Homeworld 2 discs last night, which is just a tad ironic given the THQ auction yesterday, and have quite the hankering to play them on a modern gaming system. Nexus: The Jupiter Incident will tide me over, though its still not quite the same. Nothing will ever replace the Ion Cannon Frigate in my heart.

News bits:

  • Sony is fined $394,570 by the UK Information Commissioner's Office for the 2011 PlayStation Network security breach. [via ArsTechnica]

  • Popular Mechanics investigates why proper teleportation for humans hasn't been invented yet. Sorry, we're too busy blowing each other up. [via Popular Mechanics]

  • Kickstarter darling Pebble will only ship 500 units at launch, missing their CES promise of 15,000. [via Wired]

  • Why is it more difficult to learn as we age? Because our brains are full. Really. [via New York Times]

  • Common Crawl is making a giant copy of the Internet, hoping to give rise to new research, available for free to the public. [via MIT Technology Review]

Chatty posts of the moment:

Make sure you log-in and check your filters if you can't see the following:

  • "Is there a term for the setting in sci-fi stories when a society regresses, losing the tech previous generations created? An example would be the Dark Tower series where the tech is now rusting ruins and society has fallen back to the dark ages/wild west. I guess it is sort of post-apocalypse, since some event could have occurred to cause the regression, but at the same time that conjures other ideas that don't fit." [by byorn]

  • "If you still game on a 60hz monitor you are seriously missing out." [by vynn]

Nightly file:

    Omerta - City of Gangsters demo 1.0. "OMERTA â€" CITY OF GANGSTERS is a simulation game with tactical turn-based combat. Taking the role of a fresh-from-the-boat immigrant, with dreams of the big life, the player will work his way up the criminal hierarchy of 1920’s Atlantic City. Starting with small jobs, his character recruits a gang and expands his empire by taking territory from other gangsters. Eventually he establishes his own crime syndicate and becomes the de facto ruler of Atlantic City." Download the free demo for Windows here.

Media:

Aliens: Colonial Marines Kick Ass railer:

It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I'm all out of gum. So here's a trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Bioshock Infinite reveals the Industrial Revolution goodies coming to pre-orders, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance shows off three new gameplay trailers, and Crysis 3 details the Nanosuit in a short trailer.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

DC Universe Online is preparing to roll out its sixth expansion next week, titled "Home Turf." The downloadable content will add a home base for you to prepare for battle, and it launches next Tuesday, January 29.

The standout feature of the new bases is the "Mainframe" computer, which lets you upgrade devices, conduct research, and call in supply drops or orbital strikes. Your heroes and villains can also get Backups and Henchmen, respectively, or more powerful Sidekicks and Accomplices. A new trailer shows off the new features in action.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Platinum Games' Bayonetta, featuring the butt-kicking witch with the too-slender legs, librarian glasses, and hair for clothes, will be coming to PlayStation Network on January 29, according to Sega.

The game will be available for download for $19.99, but be advised that Platinum labeled the PlayStation 3 version its "biggest failure" because of poorer textures and longer load times than the Xbox 360 version.

Platinum is working on a sequel that will be a Wii U exclusive.

Shacknews - Ryan Calavano

First up, THQ's assets have been distributed to various bidders in its bankruptcy auction, with Sega getting Relic Entertainment, Koch Media getting developer Volition and the rights to Metro: Last Light, Crytek getting the Homefront IP, and Ubisoft getting the THQ Montreal studio and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Next, God of War: Ascension seems like a safe bet for Sony, given that it's the next game in a long-running and popular franchise with one of its most identifiable characters. Just in case that isn't enough, though, the company is sweetening the pot with early access to the demo of The Last of Us. Finally, the political aspirations of George Washington will start to become clear when the first of three Tyranny of King Washington DLC packs launches for Assassin's Creed 3 on February 19.

You can also watch this episode on YouTube. And, don't forget to subscribe to get the latest episodes as they go up.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Relic Entertainment was among the studios picked up in yesterday's THQ auction announcements, having been acquired by Sega. The Homeworld franchise pioneered by Relic, on the other hand, apparently wasn't part of the deal. As a result, mobile studio teamPixel has started a crowd-funding campaign to purchase the IP.

The Save Homeworld project (via Polygon) is aiming for $50,000 with less than two weeks remaining. If it can successfully raise the funds for the property, it hopes to release the original game on digital download services, retrofit the original for touch-based devices, and release Homeworld 3.

"Given the separation of Relic and Homeworld at THQ and Relic's production timetable leaked during bankruptcy proceedings, I currently believe the bankruptcy did not interrupt the production of any unannounced Homeworld games, and it is possible Sega may have no interest in the series either given Relic's recent work," reads a note from lead developer Robert Santos. "If that continues to be the case, we will pursue every avenue toward bringing this franchise back to life."

Shacknews - John Keefer

Episode 7 of the renewed Spartan Ops season for Halo 4 debuts on Monday, and a per usual, Microsoft has unveiled a teaser for the five-mission co-op package. In this go round, embattled scientist Catherine Halsey gets a bit of payback for her current house arrest.

This series is entitled Invasion, and shows the UNSC Infinity being invaded by Promethean Knights, while Halsey appears to collaborate with Covenant bad guy Jul 'Mdama in their hunt for the Librarian. The episodes seem to be getting darker and darker.

Also coming next week for multiplayer will be a Grifball playlist, as well as two new specializations, Engineer and Stalker.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Total War: Shogun 2 has been out for a few years now, but if you missed the boat or have just been holding out for a good deal, you may want to mark your calendars for March. Sega is releasing a "Gold Edition" that bundles the game and two of its expansion packs.

The package will include the "Rise of the Samurai" and "Fall of the Samurai" expansions in North America. If you happen to live in Europe, your Gold version includes everything but the Blood Pack, making it the more attractive of the two. Both the game and its expansions got positive receptions.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Disney Infinity, the ambitious game that brings together various Disney franchises, is being pitched as a "platform" that will constantly update with new toys and playsets to collect. That means the team at Avalanche will be preparing to roll out characters for unreleased Disney movies, and part of that includes putting some future assets on the disc.

VideoGamer reports that Disney Infinity will get a new version every year, updated with content to cover the next 12 months. The version that releases this June, then, would presumably have assets for content coming all the way through June 2014. Executive producer John Vignocchi says he has warned the film producers that their upcoming characters could be outed before their time if hackers poke around in the data.

"There's absolute potential that people are going to see characters prior to their PR campaigns kicking off if someone does that," he said, "but we're hoping that isn't something that is widespread reported because then people are going to start looking for it, and it's going to ruin the magic for the consumer."

This is a temporary measure, he said, to account for the data limitations of current consoles. "In the future, as we move on to new versions of consoles we're going to be able to digitally deliver that content, and the figurines themselves will simply be dongles that allow us to then instantiate a download of that content."

He also pointed out that Skylanders ran a similar risk, putting its expansions on the disc. But since Disney Infinity features established properties, it may be more prone to hackers curious to see what's coming up.

Check out our preview for more details.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Nintendo has shed more light on the vague mention of multiplayer in Luigi's Mansion today. The multiplayer modes apparently focus on cooperative ghost-hunting in the "ScareScraper," a tower full of paranormal creatures.

"Hunter Mode" has each player take a different color Luigi, employing teamwork to hunt down ghosts in each floor before the timer runs out. Along the way you'll earn bonuses to help you catch ghosts even faster, and face off against a boss ghost at the top of every tower. You can attempt a tower consisting of 5, 10, or 25 floors, and it will feature adjustable difficulty levels.

The previous reveal only mentioned local multiplayer, but today's announcement confirms online multiplayer and Download Play as well. The game will be coming to 3DS on March 24.

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