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City Building Game Overview

. A City Building Game is a computer game where players act as overall planner and leader to grow and manage a simulated city, looking at the city from a point-of-view high in the sky.

. Players control building placement and city management features such as salaries and work priorities, but actual building is done by game citizens who are non-playable characters.

Distinguishing Features

. City building games differ from other computer and video game titles in that:
– Game goals focus on building a strong economy and high quality of life
– Cities may continue to be grown even after “win” conditions have been met
– Players can only indirectly influence individual citizen activities
– Players focus on city-level structures and economics (houses, factories, stores, hospitals, parks, churches) versus, for example, one building or business or global economy.

City Building Goals

. Players must fulfill the needs and wants of the citizens by initiating structures for food, water, shelter, employment, health, security, spiritual care and economic growth.

. Success is achieved when the city budget makes a growing profit and citizens experience an upgraded lifestyle (basic and luxury needs met; appealing environment achieved, including low pollution and high aesthetics).

. While military development is often included, the emphasis is on economic strength.

Establishment As A Genre

. The city building game genre was established in 1989 with SimCity, which emphasized continuous building versus competing to win and “blowing stuff up”.  Players followed personal preferences in design and growth.

. Indicators of success were maintaining positive budget balance and citizen satisfaction. Subsequent SimCity titles soon followed when high sales of SimCity demonstrated its popularity.

. A second boost in genre popularity came in 1993 with the publishing of Caesar, which modeled cities in ancient Rome, replacing electricity and mass transit with aqueducts and roads. Subsequent titles in the City Building Series followed, all modeling cities in past civilizations such as Egypt and China.

What Can Be Learned From City Building Games

. SimCity has been used as a teaching tool in urban studies classes. The assumptions within its economic model have been much discussed (e.g., effect of low vs. high taxes).

. Many historical games teach aspects of past cultures in an engaging and entertaining manner (e.g., Chinese culture).

. While the games are not economically or historically 100% accurate, because of their engaging nature they stir interest in learning the theory and history behind the simulations.

New Trends in City Building Games

. In 2004 a new city building game called Children of the Nile was released that added two key innovations:
– It used a three dimensional game engine instead of a fixed isometric view.
– It modeled individual behaviors of game characters.

. In 2006 a similar three-dimensional city building game called “Caesar IV” will be released.

Diplomacy and City Building

. City building games include options for complex interactions with other cities, including diplomacy (cooperative trade, exploitive trade) and war (economic build up, invasion, defense).

. It is the player’s decision when to offer cooperation vs. exploitation, or how to respond when cooperation or exploitation are offered in turn.

. Although military options are included in city building games, a key difference from typical war games is that economic strength and public satisfaction conditions MUST be maintained or war cannot be supported.

Second Life and City Building

. Some players have been inspired by the Second Life Virtual World Platform to design “on paper” a persistent online virtual world where players may build cities and have their computer citizens visit and trade with each other

. Beyond that, players would like to BE their city characters, or at least one of them at a time, to interact “live” within the three dimensional cities and empires that they have built.

. A name for this concept is the “World of City Building” Game (WOCB)

World of City Building Game (WOCB) Concept

. The concept for an online 24.7 city building game has been called “World of City Building” (WOCB), in homage to the current popular online 24.7 warfare game, “World of Warcraft” (WOW).

. Compared to traditional city building, the first innovation is to be able to “become a citizen” and interact more directly with other citizens (computer characters) in your city. You can only be one citizen at a time but you can change which citizen you inhabit.

. The second innovation is to be able to run your game online to interact with other players as city planners. The other city planners are real people playing behind the cities and characters that your city and characters interact with.

. The third innovation is to be able to have the game run 24.7. Your city could operate and trade following your policies in your absence, just as you could interact with other player’s cities in their absence.

Will We Ever See WOCB?

. At the end of this walkway you see a demonstration of a Roman City modeled on the Caesar IV city building game to be released this year (2006).

. While neither Caesar IV nor Second Life are architected to be a WOCB type game, this demonstration shows that it IS possible for city building gamers to become citizens in their own builds.

. So is it possible to design a city builder application with complex gaming logic on a 24.7 persistent online three-dimensional virtual world platform? Of course!

. It’s now up to avid city building game fans and designers.

Online Multiplayer City Builder Game Design Concept

. Persistence
– My city “hibernates” when I am away OR My city “runs on autopilot” when I am away, if I let it.

. Build Up vs. Blow Up
– My online city and its characters grow or decline based on my use of city planning decisions and tools.
– I can set my difficulty level from easy to impossible.
– I can set disasters from none to Armageddon.

. Shareable
– Others players may walkthrough my city, if I allow it, even when I’m away.
– Other player characters may travel to and through my city, if I allow it, even when I’m away.

. Ability to interact with others online
– I can have a “standalone economy” where I am independent of other player cities OR I can have an “interdependent” economy where I trade with other player cities.
– I can have a “peace only” economy where cooperation is the norm OR I can build military offense and defense capacity and use it on other player cities and characters who allow it or whom I allow to invade.

. Seemingly contradictory styles of play
– I can use codes that allow me unlimited funds so I can just build a fantasy city and characters and watch it run, and let it interact with other player cities and characters OR I can require my city to wisely invest and initial given cash fund to “make a living” for additional funds to further build with.
– I can use a landscape editor to carve land and water and place foliage and wildlife the way I wish OR I can require my city to work with the land “as is”.

. Giant shared virtual online world
– The server and computer game engines and data stores are powerful enough to support and sustain these multiple player city and character simulations and their interactions, and to keep them available even when players are not logged on.

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