SimCity 2000, Part III: My Little Mutant Pony

The mayor of Hell wakes up again almost two years later with a horrible hangover.  He discovers that in his absence, his staffers have approved a lot of extra construction.  The dusty canyon that the city began in is now full, and houses and apartment buildings are being erected on the hills above it.  The new zones are being occupied, but funds are running dangerously low.

7d

Meanwhile, the traffic has become truly miserable.  A bird’s-eye view of the city shows a multitude of little blue dots crawling along the streets.

7e

The water system is marginally more effective than it was when it was first built, but it’s only supplying the industrial sector.  The commercial and residential areas of the city are still forced to cope without running water, as if they were living in a medieval city.

Despite all this, there is good news – the city is finally about to achieve positive cash flow.

7f

Hooray!  The mayor holds an office party to celebrate.  During the festivities, he passes out again, this time on top of his desk.  His staffers move the party to the break room.

8

Several months later, Hell reaches a truly momentous milestone – a population of over 10,000.  The Hell Courier (now simply “The Courier” for some reason) reports that Hell’s commercial and industrial elite are donating a City Hall to be built wherever the mayor desires, once he wakes up from his nap again.  Things have truly taken a turn for the better.

However, not everything is well.  Along with Hell’s new growth has come a sharp rise in pollution.  In fact, the Courier’s pages are largely dedicated to the complaints by Hell’s citizens about its god-awful environment.  One family, in fact, suffered a terrible tragedy as a result of Hell’s rampant pollution: a double-jawed pony.

sc2000 mutant pony story

Who will save us from all this pollution?  The mayor can’t get voted out or sued, so… nobody.  Sorry, citizens!1

Actually, this 10,000 population marker is a good time to look at all of the crazy charts and graphs that SimCity 2000 has to offer.

sc2000 charts and graphs

Most of these windows aren’t that important in the early stages of a round of SimCity.  They essentially boil down to crime and pollution and stupid and illness = bad, education and police and health and clean air = good – some of the extra details like unemployment and specific industrial and commercial tax rates will only be relevant later on.  The population window for SimNation is always useful for seeing how badly we’re whipping the other cities’ asses in size, though.

8f

The most useful window by far is the City Map.  This shows a ton of city statistics in detail that can be projected onto the main window.  In this section, we can see the city’s crime rates by zone.

8h

We can also view individual buildings to find more information about them.  This factory is both heavily polluted and highly criminal.

8g

Meanwhile, the poor bastards living in these houses right next to the coal plant are breathing in air filled with pure coal dust particles.  Medium crime is the least of their worries.

sc2000 crime church

Even the first church in town (First Church of Hell) experiences crime.  Maybe thieves pickpocket parishioners during services or steal sanctified wine or holy water from the church cellars.

9

The city begins to spill over the rim of the canyon.  But what’s this?  Some of the new houses built don’t have power.  That’s no good.  People will move into houses without water, but they won’t move into houses without power.

9a

Turns out the coal plant we built ten years ago is running almost at capacity.  It’s time to generate more power.  But we can’t afford another dirty-ass coal plant.

What are the other options?  At this point, if we want to continue growing the city’s population, we should place some waterfalls and build dams on them.

9c

Sixty extra megawatts!  That will tide us over.  For a little while.

9e

At a population of 12,000, Hell is finally making its place on the map!  It’s probably the county seat of this depressing middle-of-nowhere desert county where nobody except for the most desperate and marginalized of society want to live.  It’s also filled with crime and pollution.  Will Hell ever be a nice place to live?  Will it be able to pay off its damn bonds someday?  Will its ponies at least stop growing extra jaws?


1 In real life, sovereign immunity (basically a shield protecting the city/county/state/federal government from a civil lawsuit) exists, but it’s limited in various ways, and under certain circumstances citizens can sue their government, at least in the US.  In SimCity, sovereign immunity is absolute – so feel free to do whatever you want!

SimCity 2000, Part II: Debt and drought

The mayor awoke in his dingy hotel room/apartment.  He cleaned up, put on a cheap suit and walked down the street to his rat- and roach-infested office in the commercial district three blocks away.  He went to his office and sat down in front of his giant secondhand oak desk covered in scratches and coffee cup rings.

He saw a sticky note stuck to the top of his desk.

Mayor – the city has $1 left in the treasury.  The residents are also threatening to riot if we don’t build a functioning water and sewage system.

One dollar left?

5

One dollar.

The mayor also just realized that he had not, in fact, installed any water pumps or water mains and that for three years, nobody in the city had had access to running water.  Presumably they all bought bottled water to cook and wash with, like he did.

However, since there was only one dollar left in the treasury, the mayor figured that he wouldn’t be able to build any water pumps or mains anyway.  So he sat down behind his desk, pulled a bottle of whiskey out of a desk drawer, and decided to wait a year and see how the building already planned would develop.  Maybe the new growth would bring in more taxpayers and the city would be able to start digging itself out of its hole.

5a

While our mayor gets drunk on cheap bourbon in his office, we learn that Boston has installed subways.  This is the game’s way of letting you know that new technologies are available, and that other cities have them, and that you don’t.  And that you can’t afford to build them because you only have one fucking dollar in the treasury.

5aa

This also happened.  Judge Stevens is definitely going to get in trouble for commenting on pending legislation.  Also, that sandwich sounds appetizing, doesn’t it.

5b

A year passes.  Despite the new growth in Hell, the city is still losing money and is now in the red.  There must be some way to cut costs, right?

5c

There is!  Impose a sales and income tax on residents and businesses in the ordinances section and cut police and fire department funding in half.  Crime will rise, but that’s a risk we’ll have to take.

5d

We don’t need more police stations.  The citizens can just buy guns and take the law into their own hands.  That’s the American way, god damn it.

So now we have $47 of cashflow per year.  That’s not great, but at this rate at least we’ll be out of the hole in three years, and hopefully more citizens will move to Hell and add to the population base.  Is there any other spending we can cut?  We don’t spend anything on health or education, so we can’t cut spending there.  What about transit, though?  Do they really need all eight of those dollars?

5e

Apparently they do.

Raising property tax is also an option, but we’ll hold off on that for now – higher tax rates mean lower growth rates.

6

One year later… the plan is working!  Now we have a hundred dollars of cashflow projected for next year.  Soon we’ll be rolling in it.

Another year passes, and-

6a

Next year’s projected cashflow is now… $-41.

Someone in the city’s accounting office is going to get fired, I swear to God.

The downturn in the city’s fortunes might have to do with the fact that the industrial and commercial sections of Hell now look like this:

6b

Maybe some drug deals are going down in those abandoned buildings, but that’s about all the business that’s being done.  (Actually, there are definitely more drug deals going on since we cut police funding by 50%.)

What we have to do now is place more residential zones to bring in more citizens and drive demand for commercial and industrial zones back up.  However, we can’t do that with negative 28 dollars in the treasury.  Money has to be raised.  Jacking up property taxes won’t help – it will only drive demand for residential zones down and reduce the population, leading to lower tax revenue.  Totally defunding police and fire services is also an option, but that will only give us a trickle of money coming in every year – and then we run the risk of fires and riots breaking out.

We truly have no choice now – we’ll have to take out another bond.

6c

The interest rate is only 4%.  This could be a lot worse.  Now, instead of interest payments on one loan, we’ll be make interest payments on two loans.  But the only alternative is stagnation.

6d

I swear that I didn’t plan this out – but it does seem appropriate that the amount we’ll owe at the end of the year on our loans is $666.

7

Now that we’ve issued our second bond and owe an assload of money every year, we have to act quickly.  Zone the shit out of this desert crater with heavy residential.  Build tenements with no running water and broken air conditioning units and no fire escapes.  We don’t care as long as people move in, start paying taxes, and get jobs at our currently empty, run-down factories.

You might have noticed the little blue things to the left of the police station.  Those are water pumps.  They cost $100 each and draw water to supply to the surrounding buildings.  They can also be attached to pipes that you can build to supply all parts of your city with water.  Our mayor finally decided to spend some money on running water – not necessarily because he’s concerned about the citizens but because he knows that running water means a higher population density and more tax revenue.  Remember – it’s all about the $$$.

7a

As the water system map shows, the newly powered water pumps are supplying… nothing at all.  This may be due to the fact that Hell is in the middle of a desert.

Also, we’ve spent over a quarter of our second bond proceeds and we’re still losing money every year.  The new residential zoning has spurred rebuilding in the industrial sector – but will it be enough to save the city’s finances?  Probably not.

7c

Meanwhile, the mayor is still drunk off his ass, sleeping on the floor behind his desk.  His staffers pretend not to notice as they answer angry letters and phone calls from citizens who are forced to bathe by rubbing their hair with soap and pouring bottles of water over their heads.

SimCity 2000, Part I: Welcome to Hell

For years, SimCity 2000 was one of my favorite games.  This city-building simulation was one of those games I grew up with – along with Civilization, Age of Empires, the original Mario and Sonic titles, the Thief series, etc.  So I thought, for a little while when I have bits of free time, that I’d return to the past, to a time when I didn’t have to worry about making god damn student loan and car payments.  You can now download SimCity 2000 from the games section of archive.org (god bless those people) or get it for a very low price at GOG, but I didn’t have to do either – I installed an old copy I still own of SimCity 2000 on CD onto an old copy of Windows 98 on VirtualBox.
lol only 90s kids will remember flying toasters

lol only 90s kids will remember flying toasters

Instead of playing a reasonable game of SimCity, though, I’ve decided to make things hard for myself.  Our future is full of uncertainty – especially in this January of the year of our Lord 2017 – and I swear to God the people living in my SimCity will feel exactly the same sense of uncertainty.  They may also feel a profound sense of fear, division and mutual hatred.  Because they’re going to live in possibly the worst city ever devised.  We’re going to try to make the worst city possible, in fact, that will still attract citizens and remain in the black financially.  This is probably going to turn out part SimCity 2000 screenshot LP, part tutorial, part… whatever else I feel like throwing in, and it will run for as long as the game is interesting, or until the entire city burns down.
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Here’s the starting screen, in which we can edit a map before we start building our city.  This randomly generated map looks great – a river and a nice flat plot of land to build on.
We’re not building a place where anyone in their right mind would want to live, though.  Let’s take out that river and move the tree and water sliders (the blue and green ones at the top left on the bar) down to zero.
0a
That’s better!  Damn.  Who wouldn’t want to drop everything and move here right away?
0b
Time for perhaps the two most important decisions in a SimCity’s lifespan: when to begin building and how much money to start with.  And the name, though that can be changed later on by changing the city’s filename in the game folder.

Let’s start in 1900.  This guarantees that we will have as little technology as possible to use to our citizens’ benefit.  And playing Hard Mode goes without saying.  No Easy Mode for us.  Note that, like in Medium Mode, we’ll be starting with $10,000, but unlike in Medium Mode those ten thousand dollars will be borrowed dollars.  Meaning we’ll have to pay them back at some point, plus interest.

As for the city’s name…

0c
Seems appropriate.
1
Upon starting the game, we find that our nonexistent city already has its own newspaper.  Amazing!
1a

According to the Hell Courier, Hell already has citizens and traffic problems.  Even though Hell’s population is currently 0 and there are no roads or even structures of any kind built yet.

Since the writers of the only newspaper in town (?) are clearly insane, let’s put the paper away and find a place to build.  We’re looking for someplace flat.  Building on hills and mountains is difficult, expensive, and a pain in the ass.

2

Let’s pick this nice valley in the center of the map.  What better place to build a thriving metropolis than in a crater in the middle of a desert.
2a
Before we start building, though, it would be a good idea to check on our finances.  We only have a $10,000 bond, after all, and we also have annual payments to make on it.  Since the interest rate is 3%, we’re on the hook for $300 a year.  Keep in mind that that $300 is merely the interest – it doesn’t count towards the principal, which in SimCity 2000 has to be paid off all at once.  So we’ll be making these interest payments for a while.

At the side of each line in the city budget, we can ask our advisors for their opinions.

You dipshit.

You dipshit.

The bond advisor tells us to raise taxes (in the property tab at the top.)  That could work… if we had any taxpayers yet, which we don’t.  We’ll quickly learn that at least half of our advisors are morons and that the other half are assholes.  That’s politics for you, though.

2c

On the other hand, here’s some good news!
3
Okay, time to start doing something with that $10,000 bond.  If we just sit on it, we’ll lose money with no progress to show for it.  The first step is to select a power plant.  If we’d founded Hell at a later date, we would have a lot more options in this window, but in 1900 the only choices available are coal, hydroelectric, and oil power.

Oil power can be thrown out right off the bat.  It’s too expensive relative to the amount of power it provides, its only benefit being that it’s “marginally cleaner” than coal power.  That leaves the only other alternative hydroelectric power.  You might be thinking that it costs just as much as coal power megawatt for megawatt, and you’d be right – if Hell had any waterfalls to build dams on (or any water at all on its surface, which it doesn’t.)  As it is, each $400 dam will have to be built on a manmade waterfall, which costs $100 each to place.  Still a better deal than the oil power plant, but not by much.  The dams are also clean, but honestly – we don’t give a damn about having clean power in Hell, do we?  So let’s go with coal power.

3aa
The citizens can complain about the pollution, and they will.  But they’ll still come to Hell all the same.
3a
The plant is built!  It will have to be replaced in fifty years, but that’s a long way off.  And if we don’t have enough money in fifty years to spend $4,000 on a replacement plant, we’ll have failed either way.  We can always squeeze our population for taxes for a few years to cover the cost if necessary – once we have a population, anyway.
3b
Our first task is to place industrial (yellow) zones, where Hell’s citizens will work, and residential (green) zones, where they’ll go to sleep and probably to drink and fight in the streets as well.  People usually advise placing these two types of zones far apart because of the heavy pollution that industrial zones produce.  But since we’re building Hell, we don’t care about that.  People will still move in, trust me.

Finally, a few commercial (supposedly blue, but really looks more like purple) zones, where our people can buy their cheap goods made in Asian sweatshops and their horrible processed foodstuffs and instant ramen cups, because that’s all anyone is selling in Hell.

3c
The people are moving in!  There aren’t quite enough of them to make up the gap in the budget caused by the annual interest payments, but we’re getting there.  Once we’re making money, we’ll be on the road to success.
The Hell Courier, two years after its city's founding, proudly trumpets "Hell Awakens!!" when the city's population hits 2,000.

The Hell Courier, two years after its city’s founding, proudly trumpets “Hell Awakens!!” when the city’s population hits 2,000 and when I get a free mansion to build thanks to my grateful population.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to spend a lot more money before we can make it.  We’re exclusively placing dense zones (which support a whole lot more citizens per tile but are also more expensive than light zones.)   We’ve also had to build a police station and a fire station, which cost a lot of money and also require an annual payment to maintain.  This is a hard price to pay at the moment, but going without police or fire services means that in the event of an emergency, we’ll only be able to call up the national guard.  And they’re not very good at quelling riots or stomping out fires.  Unless we want to see our city pillaged by angry citizens (likely, under the circumstances) or burned to the ground, we need to drop $$$ on these essential services.
3d
You know what we don’t need to drop money on, though?  Hospitals and schools.  Our citizens don’t need good health or education to work in dollar stores or toil in factories.

Maybe it’s not quite time to build our complimentary mayor’s mansion just yet.  We don’t want the masses overtaking his house and killing him in his sleep over his horrible mismanagement that easily.

4b
A quick glance at the 1903 budget sheet also reveals that we’re about to run out of money.  Fortunately, the mayor has a plan prepared just in case things really go badly. It involves getting into his ’83 Trans Am and driving out of town at midnight.

Maybe a few city ordinances can help us close the budget gap.  What does the ordinance advisor suggest?

4d
Are they now?  Let’s see what that will cost.
4e
 The people can go to… well, they’re already there.  In any case, no to pollution controls.  I’m trying to save money for God’s sake.
4f

These two should help a bit.  If we legalize gambling, we can open casinos, get the gamblers drunk on cheap drinks, and then give them parking fines the next day for improperly parking overnight after they pass out.  In all, this excellent plan only generates $15 a year, but that’s fifteen dollars closer to paying off the city’s debt.

Time will tell whether Hell has to take out more debt to survive, or whether it will be able to stand on its own feet soon.  For now, though, the mayor retires to his improvised apartment in an old Motel 6 (since we haven’t built the Mayor’s House gift for reaching 2,000 people yet.)

Recovery and a short review of Gravity Rush Remastered

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As you can tell from my last post, like many of my fellow Americans I had something of a meltdown for a few days last week inside my brain.  The new reality is so unbelievable to me and to about 100 to 150 million other people here that massive protests and/or riots depending on who you ask and where you look broke out starting on Wednesday last week.  I still think President-elect Trump is at least 50 percent likely to be an absolute disaster, both in terms of social and economic policy, and I’m starting to get ready for the second recession just in case he really steps on the gas pedal of extreme deregulation – the kind of dumb bullshit that very much was a part of the cause of the first recession starting in 2008.  Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s obvious to everyone now that my country is more divided than it has been for over a hundred years.  That would have been obvious no matter who had won.

But fuck me – I can’t do anything to change the future on a large scale.  I can, however, buy a PS4 and copies of a few new games including the new Atelier game and Gravity Rush Remastered, which is an HD port of the Vita original.  Playing the redone Gravity Rush was how I coped with things last week.  There’s perhaps no better game to escape reality with than this one in which you play a young woman who has the ability to shift gravity in any direction, allowing her to fly through the air and run around on walls and ceilings.  The heroine of the game, Kat, has to use her powers to defend the city she lives in from strange monsters called Nevi who seem to have the power to drag people, and even whole pieces of the city, into a different dimension.

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I’m not going to get too deep into analyzing this game.  It’s been out for four years now, and the remastered version for close to a year, and I just now bought it because I recently had the money to buy a PS4.  What I will say is that this version is even better than the original on the Vita and that it’s well worth playing.  It’s amazing playing Gravity Rush on a far larger screen in HD.  Moreover, all the DLC side stories that you had to buy in addition to the original game are included in Remastered.  They’re also fun, and they open up new costumes for Kat that have no extra functionality at all, aside from getting to see Kat in a maid outfit or a tight catsuit with cat ears and a tail.  Yeah, it’s fanservice.  If you don’t like it, you can avoid those side stories.  They don’t add anything to the central game anyway.

The publishers even went with the nice understated cover instead of throwing together a horrible mash of images and faces and bullshit like they usually do for North American game covers!  What more can you ask for?

The publishers even went with the nice understated cover instead of throwing together a horrible mash of images and faces and bullshit like they usually do for North American game covers!  Amazing.

I don’t want to give away anything else about the game, so my review is this: buy it.  And don’t listen to the naysayers.  While this game generally got good reviews, a few people complain about the “cheap controls”.  This is one game to which that old gripe doesn’t apply.  None of the fights in this game are especially cheap if you’ve learned the controls and the different moves well.  And honestly, if every single attack in this game were to connect with enemies easily, it would be far too easy.  People also complain about the plot, but they’re wrong too.  Gravity Rush isn’t a masterpiece of storytelling, but it has enough of a story to drive the action.  And it’s fun.  What more do you want?

There’s another reason I’m writing this piece now – Gravity Rush 2 is coming out on January 20 for the PS4.  I’ve got it preordered and I’m really looking forward to it.  If it simply maintains the quality of the first title, it will be an A-level game.

Update #3 of ?

phoenixwright

Hello readers.  I was planning to make an update post about how I’m still still not dead, even after my last two long absences.  There’s been a lot going on with me.  I passed the bar and have been working for a judge for a few months now assisting with research and sitting in on trials.  It’s been interesting and occasionally crazy, and I could write a whole post about how despite that it’s still not nearly as exciting as a Phoenix Wright game or even a Law & Order episode, or about how you really really shouldn’t go to law school.

But now that we’ve elected a god damn Caligula as our president, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point doing that now.  I still can’t believe this happened.  All you folks who voted for Trump and are deliriously happy right now – I don’t bear any ill will against you.  But I will ask you one or two years from now if you feel the same way you do now.  You’ve put a con man into the White House.  Hillary might have been a typically corrupt politician, but she wasn’t really any different in that case from any of the other typically corrupt politicians we’ve had in office in the past.  Trump is different – and not in a good way.  Mark my words and remember them years from now.  If we’re still around, that is.  I’m sorry for the off-topic post this morning but I had to say something about this.  As a Muslim (sort of lapsed, but still) with a lot of Arab family who was born and raised American, I honestly feel kind of like a Jew in Europe in the 1930s now.

Okay, so maybe that’s too dramatic.  But after all the poisonous rhetoric that’s come out this election cycle, can you blame me?  In any case, I’m not going anywhere, and I plan to get back onto a regular writing schedule here, if only to help distract myself from what’s going on right now.  I did just buy a PS4.  What better way to distract myself from reality?

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse to be released 9/20

smt-iv-apocalypse-1-2

Just a quick one today, to alert my multitudes of readers to the fact that Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is being released in three days.  This spinoff of SMT4 is getting excellent reviews all over the place.  I’m reading as little as I can about the story of Apocalypse in order to go in fresh, but the general consensus about the game’s quality seems to be that it’s not merely a spinoff, but a full game in itself, and that it corrects some of the shortcomings that the good but somewhat flawed SMT4 suffered from (see here for more on my opinions regarding the original.)  So needless to say, I’m excited as fuck about this development and have preordered a copy.  I encourage any and all fans of the Megaten series or of stupidly difficult JRPGs in general to do so if you haven’t already.

In the meantime, I’ll be playing Hyper Light Drifter, a 3D isometric action game released earlier this year that looks and sounds amazing so far.  Between these two games, I should be able to distract myself from my crushing depression when I’m not busy with work to think about it.  That’s something to celebrate, isn’t it?

Demo mode: CrossCode

Demo Mode is a new feature in which I’ll be looking at demos of upcoming games.  Not that my site needs a new feature, or any features at all, but why not?  The demo we’re considering today is…

1

It’s extremely rare that I consider buying a game that’s still in early access on Steam.  The reasons for my reluctance are that I don’t want to spoil myself for the final, completed experience once the game is finished, and also that I’m cheap as hell and hope that the price of the game might drop a few dollars upon its final release.  However, after playing the demo of CrossCode, I’m sorely tempted to buy into it right away.

CrossCode is a cyberpunk-ish 2D top-down action title with graphics reminiscent of early 90s games.  It’s so cyberpunk-ish that it reminds me a little bit of VA-11 HALL-A, a visual novel that I recently played about cyberpunk bartending action.  The soundtrack has a similar feel and the opening screen even looks almost identical in layout to that of Valhalla.  A lone girl, her hair flying in the wind, her back turned to us as she gazes at a the skyline of a futuristic city.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

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Otherwise, though, CrossCode is an entirely different experience.  The game is centered around a top-down beat-em-up mechanic in which the player can use melee attacks, projectile attacks, dodges, and guards to battle enemies.  The player can move around with WASD and use the mouse to attack.  Combat plays nicely, but standing alone, it’s nothing special.

However, CrossCode throws in a possibly intriguing story and nice graphic design and pure style into the mix, making this game a lot more attractive than it might otherwise be.  Animation is nice and fluid, the characters look interesting, and the game doesn’t seem to be afraid to inject some humor as well (not that the humor might always work, but it’s better than a game that takes itself deadly seriously, isn’t it?  Well, maybe it isn’t.)  It also has a few scenes that can easily be exploited for cheap laughs when taken out of context.

Sorry.

Sorry.

The demo only takes about 45 minutes to get through, depending upon your battle competence and projectile puzzle-solving skills, but there’s enough here to interest me and to make me feel like the finished CrossCode will be well worth a play.  The question now is whether I’ll drop 20 dollars to get it in early access (the developer, Radical Fish Games, has set down a final release for the beginning of 2017, so we have at least four months before that can be expected.)

I guess it’s good that I have the luxury to wonder about whether to buy this game in early access.  Then again, it is a dilemma.  If you also want to debate with yourself about whether to get into this game during its early access period, try the demo here or here.