Lately I’ve played a little withSim City 4 including its “Rush Hour Expansion Pack.” Given that I have a fulltime job plus a book to write, this was a perilous lapse, but I’m relieved to report that the game spat me out within just a few days, uninterested in playing further, and not just because it crashed my MacBook a few times.
Has Sim City 4 really improved the range of cities that we’re allowed to envision? Certainly, its small grid squares allow the creation of neighborhoods that feel more “mixed use.” The Rush Hour module also allows you to look in more detail at the travel choices of your simulated residents.
But a few things are still not good, and one thing is actually worse than in the 1990s version.
What’s worse is that buildings must now have orientations toward a particular street. A building that can be accessed from several directions is deemed impossible. A building that loses the street it’s “facing” dies even it it still has access on another side. And the simulated travel patterns assume that everyone goes through each building’s front door, even when the “building” is a shopping mall, university or stadium. (And even though the stadium has only one door, nobody ever gets hurt in a crush of stampeding fans.)
From a transit standpoint, the greater irritant is that while many new modes of transit are now provided for, you still don’t control transit service, and the prevailing assumption is that creating transit infrastructure — wherever you find it convenient — will cause useful service to exist. A SimCity model of the Bay Area, for example, would leave the user clueless about the difference between BART (every 20 minutes or better) and Caltrain (every two hours at off times). Both have rails, so what’s the difference?