Multi-Game Integration: This Needs to Come Back

12 03 2009

In 1995 Maxis Re-relased Sim City 2000, allowing gamers who were on Windows 95 (and beyond) to get re-acquainted with the Urban Management Sim sensation. However, that was not the only plan Maxis had in store for the product. What they did have planned was something ambitious, something that very few games have attempted since, but I think should really be attempted again: They were going to let SC2K dictate user-generated content for not one, but 3 different games

Fast-forward to 1996. SimCopter hits shelves. The game is not technologically amazing by any means, and has numerous problems. However it does have one thing going for it, and that’s the user-generated content aspect. See, SimCopter allowed gamers to take the cities they built in Sim City 2000 and fly around in them. Of course, it wasn’t just about flying, it was also about dealing with things like escaped criminals, medivacs, traffic jams, fires, and so forth. Unless of course you used the cheat to get the Apache, in which case it was “shoot everything and then shoot that UFO”. Still, the idea of  SC2K becoming SimCopter’s map editor, with everything being exactly as how it was built in SC2K, was certainly a bold and interesting idea, and if nothing else, SimCopter proved it worked.

In 1997, Maxis tried this same approach again, with “Streets of Sim City”, a game similar to Interstate ’76, which had come out a few months earlier. While I’76 had focused on vehicular combat in the American Southwest, SoSC focused on vehicular combat and armed courier work in cities that, once again, could be provided by players who had cities built in SC2K.

Sadly, while an ambitious idea, SoSC didn’t quite meet expectations. Graphics were laughable even by 1997 standards, and there was a lack of variety. Both SoSC and Sim Copter faded into obscurity.

It’s really a shame too because I feel the idea had a lot of merit, and it’s just that the spinoffs were not up to spec. Maxis of course was not known for making anything but their “management” style sims, and ironically if they had been under EA’s wing at the time they tried this, things may have gone differently.

That’s not to say this idea has to stay buried. Wouldn’t it still be a wonderful idea to build a city in one game, then drive or fly through it in another? Perhaps with friends in a sort of GTA-styled environment? Of course, costs could be an issue, but if you perhaps bundled the games together with one price-tag it’d be more tantalizing to the consumer. And I’m not really talking about the “U-Drive-It” feature of Sim City 4’s “Rush Hour” expansion, because that kept things in an isometric perspective rather than bringing you literally down to street level.

In fact, I wonder if it’s possible to build a game that could take SC2K’s city files and do this. It wouldn’t have to be anything too fancy, just a proof of concept. Again, ambitious, but perhaps we need that ambition, maybe just to get a new SimCity game out of EA rather than another version of The Sims. I prefer looking at the big picture instead of micromanaging the lives of digital people. I mean, my own life is crazy enough as it is, ya know?

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