SIm City 4 gets an expansion pack

From the press release:

EA Unveils Plans for SimCity 4 Rush Hour
The First Expansion Pack in the SimCity Franchise

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., May 7, 2003 - Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS) today announced that the first expansion pack for SimCity™ 4, SimCity 4 Rush Hour Expansion Pack* is in development at the company’s Walnut Creek-based Maxis™ studio. SimCity is on the move in SimCity 4 Rush Hour. Players will now have the ultimate level of control over their city’s transportation network by completely taking charge of roads, rail, air, waterways, and even vehicles. SimCity 4 Rush Hour will make its debut to industry insiders on May 13th at the Electronic Entertainment Exposition in Los Angeles and is scheduled to ship in fall 2003.

“Transportation is the pulsing life-blood of every city and is the number one requested area to expand upon among SimCity 4 fans,” said Lucy Bradshaw, Vice President and Executive Producer of the game at EA’s Maxis studio. “Players will experience the thrill and power of creating and controlling the ultimate transportation utopia in SimCity 4 Rush Hour.”

Players will put their Sims on the road to happiness as they take control of their city’s transportation. Players can accelerate their Sims on their way to work or play with a wide variety of new transportation options. They can create the elevated train networks of Boston, the wide- avenues of New York, or the winding one-way streets of San Francisco. Players also will be able to develop a seamless mass-transit system including rail, subway, or even a scenic ferry service that connects to a greater regional travel network. With all-new problem-solving maps and tracking tools, players will be able to see the pulsing flow of traffic, map out the most efficient routes, and quickly get Sims from one city to another.

For the first time, players will take charge of vehicles in their cities. Is the fire department stuck in traffic on its way to a four-alarm fire? Players will take direct control of the “hook and ladder” and pursue the quickest route to the blazing inferno. Players will also solve missions such as catching car-jackers and thwarting bank robbers to earn reward buildings and other vehicles. As players gain traction by fixing transportation problems and solving missions, they will watch their mayor approval rating soar and their Sim population grow! They will also be able to put their Sims on the move in new cars, ferries, helicopters, and zeppelins.

New to SimCity 4 Rush Hour are a variety of new bridge options and the ability to create a city based on a modern European building set. Players will also be able to add popular structures to their cities such as historic train stations, classic Americana road marks, or European tourist attractions. They can make their final mark as mayor and personalize their city by labeling street names, mountains, neighborhoods, and points of interest.

True to the SimCity series, the expansion pack will also feature new disasters. Car accidents and train derailments can wreak havoc throughout the city and snarl traffic. Players may test their nerve and stop a car at the intersection of a rail road and watch what happens next. Players also will be able to start a UFO alien invasion and watch the abduction of Sims, the destruction of buildings, and the creation of crop circles. Others may want to take control of their own flying saucer and create mayhem. Players can now put their foot on the gas and get their Sims on the go in SimCity 4 with SimCity 4 Rush Hour.

*SimCity 4 Rush Hour Expansion Pack requires SimCity 4 to play.

“Transportation is the pulsing life-blood of every city and is the number one requested area to expand upon among SimCity 4 fans,” said Lucy Bradshaw, Vice President and Executive Producer of the game at EA’s Maxis studio. “Players will experience the thrill and power of creating and controlling the ultimate transportation utopia in SimCity 4 Rush Hour.”

I am Jack’s simmering skepticism.

One-way streets. FINALLY.

Now if they’d just get rid of the “automatic roads” when zoning, I’d reinstall the game.

If that’s already been addressed in a patch, please feel free to flame me.

It was.

Added option to turn off auto-road when zoning behavior by holding the shift-key while zoning.

But if you were having performance problems, well, here’s are some of the performance “improvements” from the last patch (pared down so I could be as snide as possible):

Zoom and rotation switching is faster in all cases, due to changes that made building graphics loading more conservative.

Game default detail options have been made more conservative with respect to memory and processor speed. Because of the additions to the graphics options, your previous settings will be lost and reset with new default settings.

Three new graphics options have been added under in-game graphics settings. They are: building detail, texture quality and building load speed. These options are initially set at conservative defaults and can be altered for your specific machine needs. Building detail will enable you to load one building style set per rank. (1 set=low, 2 sets=medium, all 3 sets=high). Texture quality will alter the textures based on the zoom level. Building load speed will enable tuning options for the rate at which buildings are loaded in memory. For example, at the low setting buildings will appear at a slower rate but there will be greater responsiveness to the mouse and scroll movements.

So basically, you will get greater performance because it’s lower quality, fills in much slower, and the game does less (automatic zooming, context changes, etc). I’m being a bit of a jerk – they did say they implemented a few actual performance increasing techniques – but it was a bit of a kick in the nuts if you were expecting some thorough code improvements.

http://simcity.ea.com/patch/index_patch.php

Transportation is one of the most interesting parts of the game, so in fact, I appreciate the direction of this expansion… although I have no desire to control a fire truck or stop carjackers. I’m also worried about the bloat this will add to an engine which is already strained.