Chat transcript January 20, 1999
MaxisDarren: SimCity Executive Producer Lucy Bradshaw's Live Event is beginning now in the Live Events room ... BONUS! with Director of Development Christine McGavran ... If you'd like to ask Lucy a question, type "/ask (your question)" ...
MaxisLucy: Hi everyone!
jjjd: how long have you worked at Maxis?
MaxisLucy: I've worked for Maxis for just over 1 year now. I had been working for Electronic Arts before the acquisition of Maxis, as a dir. of dev.
Hendrix: How did you feel when you had to scrap the 3-D Version of Sim City 3000
MaxisLucy: To tell you the truth, it was a really good decision. We knew that the target systems of today, even with 3D acceleration were not giving us the complexity of scene and the detail that we wanted. Once we made this decision, we really made progress on bringing together what you see in SimCity 3000. I really believe we went down the right path for now at least:)
For those of you who are budding engineers with a passion for coding games, feel free to ask Christine McGavran some questions too.
Hendrix: Did Will Wright assist in the making of this game?
MaxisLucy: Will Wright was involved as more of a mentor and of course provided great insight into how 2000 worked as well as giving tips for the tuning of 3000. He played many of the early versions, right up until ship, always giving feedback. Quite frankly after having finished 3000, I respect him even more, he did 2000 basically on his own and now that I know how many elements there are to juggle and get just right, wow!
Douglas121: Why did the beta testing of SC3K take so long?
MaxisLucy: The beauty of SimCity is that it reall is a very complex simulation, the goal of tuning and polishing the game is to make it fun. We do this during the Beta phase, as well as optimize the performance a great deal. So in this case, to get it all right, we took the time that we did.
rizzi: I'm so glad the executive producer of SC3K is a woman. What responsibilties do/did you have?
MaxisLucy: I am responsible for the overall production of SimCity 3000 as well as the future of the franchise. I oversee the production group, own the design and the team developing the product.
Conrail81: Will there be an actual help book instead of a flimsy 3-4 page brochure?
MaxisLucy: The game ships with a manual, but we worked very closely with Prima Publishing on the official SimCity 3000 Strategy Guide that gives a great deal more detail about how the game works. In fact, if you order directly from the EAStore, you get the strategy guide for free. It will be available at the same time the game ships!
Hendrix: What is it like to make a game with this much hype?
MaxisLucy: Whew! Pressure! Actually it's fun to be working on a product that has had so much success in previous versions, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure we did right by it.
MaxisLucy: To tell you the truth, I think I've gone overboard, I 'm still playing 3000 and in my spare time I find myself going in for Classic Live.
SimLeader: This question is for christine - What got you interested in games?
cmcgavran (Christine McGavran, SC3K directory of development): I played games a lot as a kid on my Commodore 64 and Atari. It was just what everyone else was doing. In college I got a job programming computer graphics because it brought in good money, and that led naturally to programming and playing games again.
Mr_____X: how do you feel abought the game getting out on warez ...
MaxisLucy: Personally, I'm really bummed out about it. We worked really, really hard on it and to see it pirated was a bit of a let down. I pretty much expected to see it on the pirate boards but not quite so soon.
william_t: What were the specs on the main development computer used to create SC3K?
cmcgavran: We each had a Pentium II 300, 128 MB of RAM, SCSI, and a LOT of hard disk space. Several people had two computers. And big monitors..
Conrail81: Do you consult with engineers from the real world for your building (civil engineers)?
MaxisLucy: We did quite a bit of research both on urban planning, reading books, talking to urban planners as well as a great deal of web surfing for information on topics like waste to energy incineration and water consumption by capita etc.
motor: what kind of addons can we expect for sc3000 in the future?
MaxisLucy: We'll be launching landmark buildings, terrains, then the Building Architect Tool. We have some other plans but it would be a bit premature to talk about them right now.
SimLeader: I am really interested in game programming myself and am going to college soon, and I was wondering what is a good major to take?, and what I should do to persue my dream?
cmcgavran: Computer Science or Engineering is definitely the right major. You should take a lot of math and physics classes as well.
cmcgavran: When you are in college, look for extra-curricular activities related to computers, such as part time jobs or research opportunities. Also, it's never a bad idea to take a wide range of liberal arts classes, as writing and other skills can be very valuable.
mutpup: Do you belive that this game is accessible to starting Mayors or will they have to have some background on older games?
MaxisLucy: It's one of the things we tried to make sure we did, make it even more playable than previous versions by both SimCity afficionados and those new to SimCity. Here's one example: You have the Advisor and newly added Petitioner feature. They give you some relevant facts about how your city is doing but the advisors also have briefings on issues related to their departments, you can access these very easily, while playing. So if you ever get stumped about what to do, that is a good first recourse.
zyx: Is SimCity 3000 spegatti code? Is it messy like SC2K DOS's?
cmcgavran: I'm a little offended! (just kidding). But yes, Sc2k's code was a little confusing. 3K's code is actually a lot more organized. I think it had to be, considering the size of the programming team - you can't get away with messy code with that many people maintaining it.
kerchen: How many people were directly involved in the creation of 3K? (ie., artists, producers, programmers, testers, etc)
MaxisLucy: Lots, I'll answer in part then let Christine add. We had 7 production people, 5 in house artists, plus outside art resources, that would be the direct team, then there was the site development
cmcgavran: There were about 14 programmers working on various things related to 3k during the most hectic month, but at other times the team was 10 programmers or fewer.
MaxisLucy: where we had 5 people working on it plus outside resources. Christine, how many on the engineering side?
zeve: What kind of bugs did you encounter?
cmcgavran: You name it!... There were your usual number of crash bugs. The editing network editing bugs were the most fun to track down - such as how to get pieces of highways floating in mid-air or going through terrain. There were some pretty funny vehicle bugs. Several times a trailer without a car would appear driving around the streets.
MaxisLucy: We even found some bugs we decided were fun enough to keep.
cmcgavran: There were also bugs where people thought graphics were something they weren't - a lot of people thought the policeman's baton was a briefcase gone crazy. Mine is the science center. It has a very very strange animation sequence and sound effect.
cadae: What is your favorite building?
cmcgavran: Mine is the science center. It has a very very strange animation sequence and sound effect.MaxisLucy: I like the Maxis Theatre and the Science Center, but the one that has the sound effect I like best is California Plaza, our building, in the landmark list.
Conrail81: What kind of bugs were fun enough to keep?
cmcgavran: There is one where you can get dozens of helicopters flying around the screen. They're really funny looking - kind of frantic.
sfoster713: what is the conversion rate from sim city 2000 dollars to simoleons? for example roads used to cost $10 per square, what do they cost now?
MaxisLucy: O.K., here's a brief rundown.... Roads now cost 10 simoleons, that's the same. Police stations and schools got quite a bit more expense, inflation, you see, Police stations now cost 500 simoleons. Schools cost 500 simoleons. In 3000 you get three starting choices, 50,000 simoleons, 20,000 simoleons and 10,000 simoleon loan. You see, the terrain editing costs more as the terrain is much more detailed and the maintenance costs for civic buildings is also more expensive. You've really got to watch how you build up your city services.
MaxisLucy: Hey, all, here's a tip. If you play with disasters on.... watch out for UFOs, they really like your power plants. You might want to invest in some farms:)
Jacob: What made you decide to use simoleons instead of dollars?
MaxisLucy: Simoleons vs. dollars. Well, this is SimNation after all...... but if you want a dull, truthful answer.....we will be shipping in 13 langages within one month. Going with simoleons allowed us to not have to deal with the currency exchange situation, and what with the Euro on its way....
mikey18: Are there cheats in the game?
cmcgavran: Ooooo, wellllll OK. To get to the cheat code entry window type Alt-Ctrl-Shift-C. Then try typing "fund".
sfoster713: a question about programming.......I heard there were problems with the way the roads fit together......could you elaborate?
cmcgavran: The roads were actually quite difficult to programming because of the combinatorics issues. There were several hundred network tiles which had to fit together in many different configurations. When we tried to program this we found it was too much to figure out on the fly. So our wonderful president, Luc, wrote a utility with "Mathematica" that allowed us to solve the problem visually. And then he wrote out data files which we read into the game. That made it a lot easier!
dgilmore: How many more ordinances are avaliable in SC3K? Any examples of new ones?
MaxisLucy: There's over 40 ordinances... One example of a new one is the farmers market ordinance, and there are more that deal with heavy industry that allow you to really tailor your city more
motor: can u explain how to convert grayscale bitmaps into terran for us in sc3000
MaxisLucy: I'm going to have our assistant producer Rick Marazzani answer that one.....here he is..... From Rick - Hi, I made a bunch of these terrains for the CD and the web. It is possibe to make a terrain out of any grayscale bitmap. You can convert a picture of your dog into a city terrain or, use USGS terrain data in the SDTS DEM format to make a realistic terrain of a real city. I use PaintSHop Pro to convert a screen capture into a format that SC3k can read. USGS has a great terrain data tool to display their data, it is called DLG. USGS data and software are available at no charge from the USGS web pages. The process is several steps, and we will publish the process on the web. Sc3k can read any bmp, as long as the bmp size is one tile larger on eac side than the city size you are using. Look for the link to the USGS site on simcity.com
adamzx298: Have u guys already started thinking about a Simcity 4000 maybe?
MaxisLucy: You bet! Already working with the team on a design. You have to realize, these things take a couple of years from concept stage to completion so, yes, I'm working on it. In fact that's one thing I can ask back of you. Give me your top 5 of what you still want to see. Use the BBS. Thanks everyone for coming. Gotta get back to work!
MaxisDarren: Thanks for coming by -- and thanks to Lucy, Christine and Rick for stopping by! See you next week for SC3K software engineer Venkat Ajjanagadde ... SimCity 3000 is shipping on January 26 and will be in stores on February 2.