Just imagine what it must be like to own your own city. Think what it would be like to wake up in the morning to that warm sense of power as thousands of people queue up to pay their council tax. With a single signature you can banish their cars from the roads, close all the hospitals and excommunicate all the kids. You could build a casino and nightclub on your doorstep and flatten your neighbours into a giant park. You could ban all traffic wardens from within a two-mile radius of your BMW... You could certainly teach the designers of Milton Keynes a thing or two.
Five years ago, the SimCity brand offered us the opportunity to do just that. Well, almost. As SimCity aficionados will already know, the beauty of SimCity comes in building the ultimate profit-generating city. The principle is simple: you set up residential, commercial and industrial zones then you build roads to link them together, power plants to supply them with power and an underground water network to provide them all with water. So long as you place the residential zones in pleasant spaces (ie not next to a power plant or industrial site), and the transport can get them down the shops and off to work, then your people, or 'sims' as they're known, start to move in. The more sims who move in, the more revenue you get in the form of taxes. Put taxes up too high and sims move out, but keep them too low and you run out of funds to keep building. Because it's a scenario we're all familiar with, and because we all think we could do better, it's a challenge that's eminently addictive.
As you'd expect, SimCity 3000 expands on the basic SimCity formula. There are now light, medium and dense variations of residential, commercial and industrial zones. You can set up bus routes and rail links, with subways now performing a pivotal role in moving people around your city. You can build museums, colleges, libraries and jails on top of the usual fire and police stations, hospitals and parks; to get your citizens away from the TV you can even add a zoo and a ball park. The list is endless and includes over 70 worldwide landmarks boasting such beauties as Trafalgar Square, the World Trade Centre and the Eiffel Tower.
Doom And Gloom
The most obviously impressive part of SimCity 3000 though, is its graphics. With five levels of magnification, you can zoom right into a city and see every sim running about their daily business. You can click on every building to find out if it's powered and watered and whether it's going up in the world. But you don't have to click on these things to find out how they're doing, the graphics tell you. Derelict areas start to go black so that abandoned buildings stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. To fix the problem you can try improving the road network or you can build parks - or you can just leave it and concentrate your resources on building other areas. In the original promises for the game, we heard that true 3D would enable you to fly through your city, but alas programmers Maxis were being over optimistic and the game offers four isometric viewpoints instead.
As the game advances and the years roll by, new items become available to buy. At first, oil and coal power stations are your only options, but later you can buy fusion reactors and microwave power plants which cause less pollution but cost more and can last less than other forms of power. You also have access to desalination and water treatment plants to help improve your water flow. All in all there are 250 different building structures. However, in SimCity 2000 you could eventually buy giant pods which housed over 50,000 sims, but I found that even after playing up to the year 2400 these still weren't on offer.
Another new feature in SimCity 3000 is the attention to rubbish. You can set aside areas for landfill or in time you can buy recycling centres and waste-energy incinerators. The landfill is a tempting option because it's cheap, but once part of your landscape has been filled with trash, you can never use it again. If refuse becomes a problem though, you can always pay your neighbours to take it away for you. Ah yes, the neighbours.
There are four neighbours and after building links to them you can wait for them to initiate deals. For example, build a power link over to a neighbour (at an extra cost of $2000) and they may decide to buy power from you. Build a road link and they might sell you their 'garbage' or take yours - at a cost. Build a water link and... you get the idea. Sadly, this doesn't go tar enough and you can't initiate a deal yourself - you have to wait for a neighbour to come to you with a proposal which you either accept or reject.
Keeping you on your toes is a set of seven advisors ranging from financial and transportation to 'aura' advisor. You can consult with these at any time to discover the areas you need to work on. Your citizens may be complaining of high taxes, lack of hospitals, poor funding for schools or mass transport. It's all a big balancing act - do you risk upsetting them and have them move out, or do you spend money responding to their demands and keeping them happy? Of course the problem with the ultimate city is what do you do with it once you've created it?
This is where SimCity has always fallen down. There are five 'disasters' you can unleash on your city - including an attack from UFOs, fire and tornadoes, so you can sit back and watch it all go up in smoke. But this is always such a depressing end to a city you've slaved over for days or even weeks. SimCity 3000 does a good job of staving off the inevitable by bombarding you with petitions and having advisors keeping you informed, but you still reach that moment eventually. Each time you learn a little bit more and start off with grand ambitions of how you'll build the next Paris, but invariably you end up recreating Milton Keynes in miniature. Or maybe that's just me. If you haven't guessed by now, I love it. I've lost a week to SimCity 3000 already; it's utterly absorbing and totally addictive. This morning on the tube I was planning out whether I could create a road-free city served only by underground transport. Yesterday I had to talk myself out of recreating London and positioning the available landmarks in all the right places. I'm worried that I might start talking like Paul Presley soon, but I just can't help it.
SimCity 3000 doesn't offer any grand variations on what's gone before but then it doesn't have to. It would be nice to imagine a day when SimCity enables you to create cities like Las Vegas or Bangkok where bad behaviour as mayor might be profitable too - a sort of SimCity in the style of Carmageddon, although god only knows how it would work. Lowering the horizons a bit, it's a shame there aren't more new building structures to emerge as time advances and that you can't initiate deals with your neighbours. Also, it would be nice if you could raise and lower taxes in different areas to give slums a bit of a tax boost. Most of all, I wish I could build a red light district. Oh, and a giant roundabout with a herd of concrete cows in the centre...
The fundamentals behind making a decent city are still the same. Place your residential zones too close to industry and people will move out; make them too remote and your sims will have too far to travel. Everything you do has a positive and negative effect - it's up to you to decide if it's the direction you want your city to go in
1 - First sketch out residential (green), commercial (blue) and Industrial (yellow) zones.
2 - Next you need to build a power station to supply your zones with electricity...
3 - ...and an underground water networfc to provide all the zones with water.
4 - Now lay some roads to make sure that your sims can get to work and the shops.
5 - Your little slms start to move in and your city begins to grow.
6 - Now just tinker with the taxes a bit and your bank account starts to expand, too.
Owing to the non-linear nature of this particularly complex beast, there's no walkthrough as such to offer. What we have instead are some useful strategies that are guaranteed to make your city the envy of a nation. So just glance over these pearls of wisdom and get building.
One of the most important skills when building a prosperous city is the ability to plan ahead. If you can envision the layout of your metropolis, complete with roads, railways, different zones and other amenities, the chances are you'll be more successful.
In the very beginning, make sure the game is paused and throw down an 8x8 residential, a 6x6 commercial and an 8x8 industrial zone. Generally speaking you want to try and increase your city in increments of this size, which usually leads to more balanced growth.
Next, make sure you have a power plant a fair distance away from your residential areas, and also leave room for others to be placed alongside. Using this method you only have one area that's prone to heavy pollution, which can then be dealt with more effectively when the time arises. Connect up the power and then create some fresh water. Water is highly important, and we'll find out more about it later, but for now just create one square of surface water (away from industry) and place about four pumps around this source. Go to the pipes screen (underground) and connect your zones to the supply.
Finally, make sure you're connected to at least one of your neighbours via road, water, power or rail. Unpause the game, stick it on African Swallow mode and watch your population soar. Your little town is now up and running. Give it two years or so, then nudge the speed back down to the second-lowest setting.
When the bar is up, your citizens demand more of that zone, and when it's down people move out. But you already knew that, right?
Wheelin' And Dealin'
At first your neighbours offer you plenty of deals (providing you're connected to them). If anyone offers to take away your garbage, accept. The removal price is pretty low and it solves a messy pollution problem. Alternatively, a neighbour may offer to buy water from you - accept this too. It brings much-needed income into the city, and if you add a couple more pumps you'll have loads of the stuff to spare anyway. Refuse all other deals - just make sure that your exports are greater than your imports.
Lend Us A Grand?
By 1905 your city should be doing okay. Hopefully you've remembered to include some schools, police stations and fire stations, not to mention parks. Greenery keeps the hippies happy and ultimately raises land value. Unfortunately this early expenditure means cash starts to get a bit tight. Don't worry too much though, as there's no shame in borrowing money early in the game. In fact your financial advisor usually has such faith in you that he's positively rapt about the idea.
Take out a couple of loans (50,000 Simoleons) and spend wisely on increasing your residential areas, as well as your water and power production. Set up a few landfill sites too, and see whether you can wangle a deal with a neighbour to dump trash in your city. Now it's time to be patient. Speed up the game again, and after about ten years your loans should be paid off. In the meantime, your existing deals and any others you've negotiated should be helping your income, and people should be turning up in their thousands.
Health and education are the key funding issues you need to concentrate on. Providing plenty of schools is pointless unless you have enough money to run them properly. Not only does a good education policy attract sims to your city, it also pulls in high-technology industry too, which means you can replace the heavy-industry zones which produce loads of pollution, with cleaner light-industrial zones. Ultimately, if you keep your education budget in good order your sims will be a healthy, intelligent bunch with well-paid jobs. In other words, there'll be no cause for complaint.
Ports And Airports
Set up a seaport as soon as you can. Ships from other parts of the world boost your industry and especially commercial sectors. From experience, commercial areas are definitely the most difficult to sustain, so if you can set up more than one port the rewards are priceless. But remember: ports are dirty, filthy places full of sweaty, foul-mouthed dockers. Don't place them near residential zones, as the many forms of pollution will be more than the inhabitants of those places can bear. After a while you also get the chance to build an airport. Like the seaport, it has a positive effect on your economy. Keep it away from residential areas, but well connected by road and rail.
Landmarks & Leisure
These not only make your city look cool, they also raise the 'aura' of your urban sprawl. Landmarks that go down particularly well are Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the twin towers of New York's World Trade Centre. You can only have ten landmarks per city, but choose wisely and they can stimulate commercial growth and tempt tourists. It's the same scenario with leisure facilities. If you place a marina in an estuary, it increases the value of surrounding land and instantly boosts any commercial or residential zones nearby. Zoos make the life of your inhabitants slightly more interesting and are especially effective near residential zones. Sims love to have fun, so make sure you also create plenty of ballparks. The general rule of thumb with these types of buildings is quite simply 'the more the merrier'.
Rewards And Opportunities
As mayor you're constantly inundated with suggestions and possibilities. These deals can look great on the surface, but can in fact harbour a huge disadvantage for you in the long run. For example, having the toxic waste factory in your town means loads of cash, but the amount of pollution it brings with it - and the subsequent exodus of the populace - eventually puts a heavy burden on your resources. And then there's the casino - the amount of crime it attracts is hardly worth the small amount of revenue it brings in.
One of the better options is the military airbase and defence contractor. As long as you keep the GIs away from your dense residential areas and create a kind of army satellite village for them, things work well. An even better opportunity is the university. This is a direct result of a good education budget, and further increases the intelligence of your sims.
Eventually, after approximately 100 years, your city should become completely self-sufficient. You should terminate all neighbourhood deals and ensure you have everything in place to fend for yourself. Never sell water after about 1985 - your neighbours want too much and the cost of production just isn't viable. Furthermore, if you inadvertently terminate the deal by miscalculating the amount of water you have, the penalties are astronomical.
Rubbish should be dealt with efficiently, as pollution becomes a big issue later in the game. You'll need plenty of landfill areas and recycling plants, all well away from residential zones.
You should also build an underground tube network, as it lowers air pollution levels and is a faster way to travel. One way of guaranteeing an effective service is to place subway stations automatically into your plans as you are building your city. Finally, when you have enough money to complete the system, the stations are already there and you don't have to demolish anything to make room for them.
Download SimCity 3000
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
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