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SimCity News

Please note I'm currently working on the new site. I didn't want to take the site offline though, so you can still visit it. However me working on the site while it's still online means a lot of the pages will appear wonky. But not to worry, it won't take too long. Happy
Friday, April 2, 1999 - 23:00

Yesterday, April 1st, SimCity.com was taken over by Sims promoting the upcoming game The Sims. Now Luc Barthelet has published a statement on the SimCity website. Click read more to read it!


STATEMENT FROM LUC BARTHELET
MAXIS GENERAL MANAGER

As you may know, on April 1st there was a bit of a stir on simcity.com. Apparently a small group of Sims -- the people who live within SimCity -- took temporary control of the Web site while the employees of Maxis were out on their annual San Francisco Bay boat trip. The Sims thought it necessary to take this extraordinary step to press their demands for a new game … one that focused on their lives.

After an intense negotiation session with the group’s leaders, we regained control of the site. Apparently they did not know that over the past few years, Will Wright was busy working on such a project. In fact, he’s calling the game The Sims.

The Sims will put you in charge of an entire neighborhood of Sims. You’ll create a family and build them a home. Then help your Sims pursue a successful career, make friends and find romance -- or totally mess up their lives. Like Will’s other games, there is no right or wrong way to play this game. But you’ll put your skills to the test as you deal with life’s little disasters and real-world situations.

Needless to say, the Sims who hijacked simcity.com were elated to learn about Will’s new game. A number of them said they would be moving to his new game as soon as they could. We will be providing more information about the game soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 1999 - 22:00

Chat transcript February 17, 1999


MaxisDarren: Welcome

MaxisOcean: Hello everybody.

MaxisDarren: Can you quickly describe what your job entails?

MaxisOcean: Sure, I'm the art director for SimCity 3000. Basically that means that I created the aesthetic for the buildings, cars, people and so on. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

sonnyboy: how long does each piece of art take to make?

MaxisOcean: Different buildings take different amounts of time. A large building like a 4x4 skyscraper might take a full week to build, but a little house could probably be done in just a few hours We created people pretty quickly too, just a couple hours per. Actually, the hardest things to do just from a time standpoint were all of the networks. Bridges, roads, etc. were a bunch of work.

zyx: what inspired you to create buildings with 4 unique faces?

MaxisOcean: In 2k we made the buildings in DPaint, it's basically just a pixel pushing 2d paint tool, and you would have to do 4 times more work to make a four-sided building, and it would be boring work. But times have changed and now that we're building everything with 3D art tools it's not much harder to actually sculpt the buildings in the round. When you do that, it's a simple matter to render all 4 sides. Also it looks better when you can rotate around the building.

stinkysocks: are they made with wireframe modles

MaxisOcean: Yep, we used 3D Studio MAX and built everything with polygons. Lots and lots of polygons. Some of our buildings are made of hundreds of thousands of polygons.

safter: what architecture did you study for simcity3000?

MaxisOcean: We took field trips to a bunch of US cities: Boston, New York, New Orleans, and of course the San Francisco Bay Area. We took lots of photographs -- we also looked at lots of architectural books. One series in particular is basically hundreds of beautiful photos of factories, blast furnaces and other industrial sites. It's by this German couple, Bernd and Hilla Becher -- we used that for lots of the inspiration of the industrial areas.

simson: How many different kinds of people and cars are there?

MaxisOcean: We started out with a couple hundred different people but wound up chopping it down to under a hundred. Lots of cars, too -- probably 40-60 counting the civic vehicles.

X-ViRGE: How many different bridges are there, and are they modeled after specific real life bridges?

MaxisOcean: Let's see. We made one bridge based on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, another based on the Golden Gate, another based on the Brooklyn Bridge. The highway bridge and the raised bridge for the roads are just generic. The rail bridge is based on this cool railroad bridge in Scotland. So let's see, 6 bridges? Somewhere around there.

MayorMike: the action items like traffic, I notice are sprites, these were first used in the commodore if memory serves me. Are the SC3K banners in the stadium done the same way as well as the players on the field or did you find these had to be done differentl

MaxisOcean: No, they're sprites like everything else. We just had to make lots of states for them so that it would look like a crowd was present.

pressbox: are there non-landmark buildings that you've designed that aren't in the game?

MaxisOcean: Oh yeah. We made lots of art that didn't make the final cut, but basically all the stuff that we thought was really good went into the game. It took us a bunch of practice to make really nice buildings and the practice buildings got thrown out.

MaxisDarren: here's a follow up to the question before ...

zyx: i know this seems like a stupid question but what is a sprite?

MaxisOcean: A sprite is just a little bitmap that gets thrown on screen by the programmer. Nothing fancy.

simcity3k-com: how many people did you have working with you?

MaxisOcean: At our peak, the art team for 3K was about 15 people, more or less. People would come in and work for a while then go to other projects, but for a while it stayed pretty busy over here. We also worked with a couple outside art groups, so counting them, it's probably closer to 40 people.

whitedd: What time period are most of the buildings aimed for?

MaxisOcean: I figured, that since the whole concept of making cities on a computer is very high tech already, it would be good to balance out the aesthetic with lots of buildings inspired by early 20th and late 19th century architecture. So we looked at 1930s era skyscrapers and at beaux arts style apartment buildings and at nasty 19th century factories and power plants. If you look at the coal power plant, it's inspired by the Battersea power plant in London, the same power plant that appears on the cover of the Pink Floyd album "Animals." Of course, some of the buildings look like contemporary ones, but I think that it's best to sprinkle modern ones in a context of traditional ones.

Lexus: What games have u worked on?

MaxisOcean: Let's see. SimCity has been a three-year project, so you have to go back a bit, but I worked on a bunch of other games here at Maxis: SimCopter, Full Tilt Pinball, among others. Before working at Maxis, I did freelance art -- some for Broderbund in the Carmen Sandiego series, some for Lucas Arts.

qwerte: was all the wrk done on computers-or were they sketched by hand too?

MaxisOcean: Lot's of the buildings were at least crudely sketched before creating them. Some of them were simple enough that we were able to just jump in and start making them in 3d.

emkubed: for the neomodern buildings, like the waste-to-energy plant, what did you draw ideas from?

MaxisOcean: There are actual waste-to-energy plants out there that we used as reference, but for the really futuristic ones we just went and exaggerated the characteristics of the thing that the building represented. I'm a big fan of 1930s-era sci-fi, so I tried to go with a Buck Rogers-metropolis aesthetic for the futuristic stuff where possible.

whitedd: How many different types of "abandoned" buildings are there? Is there one for every building?

MaxisOcean: There's a bunch, but not one for every building. We did one for every size (1x1 -5x5) for each zone type, but not much more than that -- It would have been too great a demand on the users RAM. Maybe for the next rev we'll make unique abandoned and construction buildings.

Teleboss: Hi Ocean! Why couldn't you have programmed the game in a lower level, and have done it in smooth full 3D?

MaxisOcean: A couple reasons -- probably the most important is that real-time 3D is still pretty ugly compared to the detail that you can get with pre-rendered art. The other reason is that if we limited the user to a low-level in the game, they'd never get to see the whole (or even a very large part) of their city.

zyx: when are you releasing more landmark buildings?

MaxisOcean: March 2nd. They'll be nice.

Lexus: did u work on the Bat?

MaxisOcean: Yeah, but another artist, Joseph Knight, is doing most of the real work on it. All I did was come up with some early mock-ups and then nudge it one way or another over its development.

simson: Will we be able to create buildings using BAT which look as good as those in the game?

MaxisOcean: Probably not. BAT is going to be relatively easy to use, and as a result, we had to simplify it. Compared to the freedom to create that you have in an open-ended 3D package like 3D Studio MAX, the BAT will be pretty limited. I've made some cool-looking buildings with it, though, so if you're determined, you could make some good stuff.

X-ViRGE: What's with the eyeball rolling out of the science building?

MaxisOcean: That's the nature of science -- you never know what your results will be. We were just trying to be true to the spirit of the scientific endeavor.

Saddam_Hussein: Are you a better artist on or off the computer?

MaxisOcean: The broad aesthetic skills are universal, and I'm more or less the same artist regardless of the medium that I'm using I have noticed that all of the best computer artists are also very good with traditional media, so I expect that they reinforce each other. You can see what kind of work I do on the PC ... I'm about as good with oil on canvas.

whitedd: What was the inspiration for the courthouse reward? It looks like a building at Willamette University in Salem, OR.

MaxisOcean: The one we actually used as reference is in Boston, I think. It's a pretty generic example of federalist style architecture -- a style I'm fond of.

X-ViRGE: Besides the science center and university, are there any other little "different" building animations?

MaxisOcean: Well, the crowd in the stadium changes, the toxic waste plant pulses and there are a bunch more, but they don't spring to mind right away.

sonnyboy: do you use Mac or PC?

MaxisOcean: I started out with Macs and worked on them for five years or so, but when I started getting serious with 3D I wanted to use 3D Studio, and regrettably, that's only available on the PC. So I switched, grumbling the whole time, but now I'm used to the PC and don't mind it.

MaxisDarren: Here's the final question ...

X-ViRGE: What is your overall favorite building in the entire game?

MaxisOcean: Probably that 3x3 golden skyscraper -- the one that looks a little bit like the American radiator building in New York, but nicer.

MaxisDarren: Some great questions today -- thanks for taking part ... and thanks, Ocean, for stopping by.

MaxisOcean: My pleasure, I hope you got some interesting answers. Bye! -- O.

Wednesday, February 3, 1999 - 22:00

Chat transcript February 3, 1999


MaxisDarren: Welcome to today's chat ...

MaxisWill: Hi everybody.

JoelBert: What made you come up with the idea of SimCity ...

MaxisWill: I was working on another game a long time ago and it involved bombing islands with a copter "Raid on Bungeling Bay" by Broderbund. I had more fun making the islands when I was working on the game so after I finished I kept developing the program I had written and after much research it turned into SimCity.

Comics: hi will, how do you feel about the success of the Simcity line? are you surprised?

MaxisWill: Yes, I was very surprised that SimCity had such a wide appeal. It was really my partner Jeff Braun that saw the potential and talked me into starting a company to market it.

SimLeader: Im a long time fan of sim city, and I was wondering when did you get interested in citys, and wondering how it would be to run one?

MaxisWill: When I started playing with my island editor from the 1st game I thought it would be really cool to have the whole scene come to life so I started reading about computer simulation and city planning. The work of Jay Forrester was particularly influential. And as I was reading about cities, I was also programming this little simulation and it was like having a guinea pig to test my theories and assumptions on it. It made the whole subject much more fascinating compared to just reading about it in books.

Anakin006: What difficulties did you encounter when making SimCity Classic?

MaxisWill: The hardest part was that certain parts of the simulation took very long to run (esp. traffic and power scans) this really argued for a multithreaded approach which didn't exist on current machines so I had to write a multi-tasking overlay that ran on the C64 and Mac to separate the simulation from the UI with pre-emptive multitasking.

Slattery: How much input did you have into the development of SC3000 ?

MaxisWill: I helped a little with the tuning and simulation design but for the most part this version was done by the SC3K team. They took it in many directions that I really enjoy. Over the last few years one of my big ambitions at Maxis has been to not be involved with SimCity just because I have spent so many years on it and have so many other ideas I want to pursue. Now I feel that I'm free of it, I'm very grateful to Lucy Bradshaw for that.

PinMaster1: How did you come up with the name MAXIS?

MaxisWill: Jeff's father came up with the idea. Jeff had about 4 rules that he wanted in a name: It had to be short, easily remembered, include a x, z, or q, and look good visually.

zeve: Who is Jeff?

MaxisWill: Jeff Braun and I started Maxis together about 10 years ago. We met at a pizza party thrown by some programmer friends. I showed Jeff my early version of SimCity and he said "Let's start a game company."

Funky: Before you used to make your own first simcity classic game what did you used to be for example student or different job before you decide to created your simcity classic?

MaxisWill: I did a game for Broderbund called "Raid on Bungeling Bay" on the C64, didn't sell too well here because of piracy, but did about 750,000 units in Japan on the Nintendo.

SMN_PlanetSimCity: Have you gone around the web and seen all the fan support for your games?

MaxisWill: Yes, I stay very tuned into that stuff. I think that's one of the coolest things to happen in the last few years and I'm really hoping to leverage that dynamic in upcoming games.

SimLeader: Who came up with the llahma thing? is it your favorite animal?

MaxisWill: Yes, I came up with the Llama thing (for reasons that shall remain mysterious), but I'd have to say that I prefer ants (the ant is a hexapod).

Donuthead: What kind of input did you have in SimCity 2000?....were you directly involved in the making?

MaxisWill: I did about half the coding and 2/3 of the design work on 2000 along with Fred Haslam.

tuvix: How do you decide whether a potential feature of the game will make the simulation better, or just unnecessarily complicate it?

MaxisWill: In simulations you need to think really hard about that. There's an old Japanese saying: "Your garden is not complete until there is nothing else you can remove." I think that sums it up rather nicely.

Jlkvm: What games do you play the most when you have the time?

MaxisWill: Oddly, I really like turn-based war games, maybe to balance out the time I spend making more politically correct games. I spent a lot of time with the Steel Panthers series I also like most of Sid Meier's games.

NickSimManny: How much did SimcityClassic cost for everything??

MaxisWill: I would guess it probably cost about $100,000 -- that's a very rough guess, and it's based on the fact that I worked on it for about 2 years with no pay.

SMN_PlanetSimCity: how can those interested in working at a software company like Maxis get a start?

MaxisWill: The best way is to actually make a simple game -- maybe shareware or in Java -- even it will give you insights into the real issues. It also teaches you how hard it really is and is much more impressive than a resume to most game companies.

MayorTeresa: Where did you get the idea for The Sims?

MaxisWill: I actually started on the Sims before I did SC2000. I then put it on the shelf for a long time after SimCopter. I decided that technology had gotten to the point where it was time to really do it. It basically is about people and architecture and my attempt at an odd RTS game.

JJacobs107: When is a new game called The Sims coming out?

MaxisWill: Sometime this year hopefully, I've been working on it quite a long time at this point.

Anakin006: Were you involved in the other sim games (SimFarm, SimAnt, etc.)?

MaxisWill: I worked directly on SimCity Classic, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimCity2000 and SimCopter. The others were done by other designers.

SuperMario: Do you want to make just simulation games, or other types of games?

MaxisWill: Yes, I'd most prefer to make games that don't fit into existing categories, but that drives the marketing people crazy.

Intrigue: What kind of computers do you use in the design work now? Still Macintosh? Or have you moved to Silicon Graphics?

MaxisWill: Sad to say I've mostly moved on to WinTel machines. Our artists mostly use PC workstations with 3D Studio Max.

Quidnam: Do you expect future SimCity products to increase in complexity? What elements of gameplay do you feel are fundamental and essential to the simulation?

MaxisWill: I don't think the gameplay should increase in complexity. I think it should increase in perceived texture. One of the cool things about SimCity is how each player makes up a story to describe their play experience, so I think we need to provide experiences that are more evocative to the players and help maintain the illusion that there is a real world inside the machine.

SailorUranus: How long did the first SimCity take to develop?

MaxisWill: I started work on it in about 1985 and worked on the C64 version for about 1.5 years. Later Jeff and I started Maxis and I put about 2 more years into the Mac version.

SMN_PlanetSimCity: How do you think new technology will enhance games in the next several years?

MaxisWill: Of course the graphics will get better and that's what most people obsess on, but I'm more interested in the depth of the computation that is opening up which will allow many components of today's games which are now static, to become dynamic: windflow simulations, real dynamic weather, time of day variations, social modeling, ALife subsystems, will all be as ubiquitous in future games as texture mapping and lighting are today.

Ba-shtad: In the platinum edition of SC2K, when did you film that interview?

MaxisWill: I have no idea, many years ago.

TheQat: Did SimCity start out (after C64) as a Mac-only project? ...

MaxisWill: Yes, around 1987 I redesigned the whole thing for the Mac and a few months later the Amiga (BTW, it was the 1st game on the Amiga to use Halfbrite mode) when the Mac was nearing completion we started on a PC version.

Anakin006: What stories do you have about playing your Sim games?

MaxisWill: I remember Fred Haslam and I working on SimEarth in our 1st office. We were debugging the routines which controlled the continental-drift in the game right as the Loma Prieta quake hit. The building started shaking and we ran out into the parking lot and gave each other a funny look and just shrugged.

Intrigue: What is your advice to young people into computers who are considering a career like yours? What kind of classes did you take and where did you go to college (if at all)?

MaxisWill: Don't do it, go back, danger ahead! You need to be very driven and really love the work. I took about 5 years of college but never got a degree -- studied architecture, Mech. engineering and aviation. Ended up teaching myself programming.

SimLeader: why did the origanal game have passwords? ...

MaxisWill: I was sort of torn between the challenge of gameplay vs. the open-ended, erector-set toy approach. Cheat codes let the people who want a challenge pursue it as such and the people who just want to build a train-set type thing do so without limitations.

Intrigue: What language did you learn first and which do you think are important in the gaming world today?

MaxisWill: My 1st language was PASCAL (actually that's not quite true I learned FORTRAN in college and thought it was a waste of time). In gaming today it's mostly C and C++. Still a bit of assembler here and there.

Funky: I remember that I first play SimCity classic way back to 1988, this time on BBC Master (British) computer, did you know that BBC Master used to have Simcity?

MaxisWill: I don't remember the Master, I do remember the Acorn as well as the Sharp and a few other odd machines at the time.

Funky: What are you dream of create an game that you wish to make?

MaxisWill: I like games that let me build things. There's something really fun about making something that's never existed before, especially if it does something or has behavior or dynamics.

MaxisDarren: And now, the final question for today ...

Lexus: what next for maxis?

MaxisWill: We've decided to leave the games industry and concentrate instead on screensavers with cute kittens and puppies and cool inspirational sayings like "there's no I in team."

Bye everyone, thanks for your time. Time for me to hit the rack again.

MaxisDarren: Thanks to everyone for coming in today -- next week, Michael Perry, the designer of SimCity Classic Live will be in @ 3:00 p.m., PST.

Wednesday, January 20, 1999 - 22:00

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!

cmcgavran: Bye!

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.

Wednesday, January 20, 1999 - 22:00

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!

cmcgavran: Bye!

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.

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