SimCity 2000, Part VII: The Ruling Class

At five in the morning in the pre-dawn light, a foul-smelling cloud of smoke billows out from the hills and into one of Hell’s neighborhoods.  A truck transporting dangerous industrial materials overturned, causing a chemical spill.

Sadly, this kind of accident is common in Hell, where not much thought is given to things like safety standards or public health.

Pollution problems don’t stop the growth of the industrial sector.  The city continues to expand northward and builds its first road connection to its northern neighbor.  Road, rail and highway connections cost money, but they also help expand a city’s demand for commercial and industrial development.

As we can see in the annual budget, Hell has finally paid out on its bonds, and the money is now rolling in.  However, despite Hell’s newfound wealth, life in the city still sucks.  Fire department funding is still low, there are only two police stations and one hospital in the whole city, and Hell’s single school is now crowding up to 70 students into each classroom.

Where’s that surplus going, then?

To this new upper-class residential development – an escape from the filth and bustle of the city.  The homes here are powered by solar energy, a newly discovered and totally clean source of power, and they’re even hooked up to a water supply.  Across from this development is an art museum, the only museum within the city limits.  This new development is unofficially known as “Paradise”, and its property values are so high that only the members of the small elite class of business and political leaders in the city can afford to live there.  The mayor also has a convenient private road built there to visit his friends and to have drinking parties on boats in the lake, and other rich person stuff like that.

Placing man-made lakes and forests is expensive, but it doesn’t really matter – the city can spare the money now.

As we can see, this retreat is located far away from the rabble.  Its residents can’t even see the city, which is mercifully blocked from view by a mountain.

Even so, no mayor can ignore the plight of his citizens for long.  Because SimCity 2000 shoves that plight in your face with notices that your citizens are demanding something or other.  In this case, it’s another hospital.  The old hospital is still the only hospital, and for decades it’s been insufficient to serve the community.  Perhaps all the gang violence has something to do with it.  Knife and bullet wounds have to account for at least a quarter of the hospital room visits in the city.

On the upside, those Death Wish citizen vs. gang wars seem to be going well.

At the insistence of his advisors, the mayor agrees to dedicate a small part of the city’s annual surplus to the building of a new hospital.  After all, Hell’s citizens can’t work and pay taxes if they’re dead.  Note that hospitals and other public service-related buildings don’t go into effect until the year after they’re built, so they remain empty and inoperative with a default C+ grade until then.

But the rumblings from the citizens don’t stop.  They now demand a new school, probably to relieve the effects of the crowding on their children’s current and only school.

Aw, come on.  A B- is like a… barely passing grade.  It’s fine.

Still, the mayor caves in because he realizes it’s important to at least educate the little shits so they can bring a steady stream of revenue to Hell in the future.

Hell’s average citizens aren’t the only ones complaining.  As the city continues to grow, industrial demand falters.  The phrase “Industry Needs Connections” is pretty vague, but what it means is that your city needs either a seaport, which is impossible in Hell because there’s no sea or river in the city limits, or a connection to its neighbors by rail or by highway.  There’s nothing you can do to solve this problem other than build one or more of these kinds of connections.  Unfortunately, they’re pretty expensive – especially railroads, which cost $25 per tile, require 2×2 tile train stations to operate, and basically demand that you either demolish a path through your existing city or build the railroad on its outskirts (or use a rail to subway connection through the city, and subways are even more expensive to build!)

Since the connections required for continued industrial growth are costly, we’ll wait for a while to place them.  In the meantime, the citizens again make a demand of the mayor – this time for more police stations.  Apparently those citizen-gang wars aren’t going so well.

A look at property values in the city might be useful.  The value of each tile is determined by several factors, including pollution and crime.  The presence of trees, water, and other desirable stuff like parks helps increase the value of land.  The darker the blue on this projection, the higher the value of the tile.  As we can see here, downtown Hell has mostly low-value land.  The areas not shaded in are the cheapest possible.

The upper-class neighborhood to the far southwest, however, has very high property value (the cheap land to the north are the solar power plants.)  This is because there’s very little to no crime or pollution here and because of the value added by the man-made lakes and the trees, which are invisible in this mode.  The mayor’s mansion, of course, is on the most valuable land of all.

Son of a bitch.  Industrial demand refuses to rise still, so we have to build a highway and create a connection with the town over by dragging the highway off the map.  Highways are expensive and a pain to build through cities because of the demolition required, but they can relieve traffic if placed correctly, and they boost industrial demand if they use connections.  You have to connect highways to roads with onramps to make them functional, because otherwise your citizens won’t be able to drive on them.

Oh yeah, don’t worry about that break in the highway up there.  People can drive across it somehow.  Perhaps there’s a car elevator or levitator there that we can’t see, or maybe there’s just a burning pile of wreckage where cars have driven off the highway and crashed into the pavement fifty feet below that people can now drive over.

Since Hell is now the state capital, it should probably have an airport.  Airports boost commercial demand.  All you need is a 2×6 block of tiles to build one (it has to be that large to accommodate a runway.)

Placing an airport next to two schools is probably a terrible idea.  But let’s face it, those kids aren’t learning anything useful at those schools anyway.  Maybe at least this way one of them will become inspired to be a pilot.  Meanwhile, the kids of the elite attend an actual good, non-crowded school in their own neighborhood that we can’t see because it’s a private school.

Will the 99% be satisfied with the meager services they’ve being given?  Will they attempt to overthrow the mayor by force?  Find out next time, because I don’t know either!

SimCity 2000, Part VI: Mayor Tony Montana

18

After taking its place as the state capital, Hell undergoes a transformation.  Life doesn’t really get any better for the general masses, but the new city’s new status spurs the building of upper-class neighborhoods removed from the rest of the city, sheltered away on the edges of town.  Meanwhile, the heart of government teems with lobbyists and other forms of lower life.  (Ha ha, just kidding, if you’re a lobbyist reading this right now.  Well, sort of.)

18a

The city assembly now serves as the state capitol building, and the assemblymen now convene in a nearby office building.  Shortly after this change took place, the mayor ordered the funds for the statue given to the city to be spent on a commission of a statue… of himself.  Standing in the middle of a giant man-made fountain.

18e

Even though the mayor was generally considered a worthless drunkard, nobody could seem to get rid of him, and he kept the bulk of spending and city planning power for himself.  People simply did their best to ignore the gaudy monument.  Notice that even the pigeons avoid his statue.

Not far away, at Hell’s only hospital, a doctor takes a smoke break on a balcony outside in the cold night air.  This one hospital isn’t sufficient to serve the entire city, he knows.  In fact, the city only allocated money for a thousand beds in the facility, forcing twelve of the 1,012 patients currently in the hospital to sleep on chairs in the hospital’s waiting rooms.  Because of its crowding problems, the hospital was given an F by the official hospital grading board.

18b

The doctor asked his colleague that day what the hell the city government was planning to do about the problems the hospital faced.  The other doctor laughed.  They both knew that the city government wouldn’t do anything.  An appeal to the mayor was pretty useless at this point.  Most people couldn’t even reach him for a meeting.

18c

Remember that mayor’s house offered as a reward for the city reaching a population of 2,000?  It’s finally been built.  Far away from the noise and danger of the city, in the middle of a small forest of specially planted trees surrounding a man-made moat.  The mayor also commanded the construction of a hydroelectric dam specially for his use so that he doesn’t have to rely upon Hell’s unreliable power grid.

18d

The mayor’s house in SimCity 2000 is useful for finding out how popular the mayor is.  Which isn’t terribly useful.  The mayor, having absented himself from the filthy smog-ridden city, delegates most of the everyday decisionmaking authority to a group of city planners answerable only to him.  He spends most of his day in his mansion’s giant game room and in a massive hot tub like the one in Scarface, and of course he’s drunk as often as he can help it.

scarface-cocaine

Rumor has it that he’s started doing blow too.

One of the decrees the mayor issued from his new retreat, shortly after Hell was named the state capital, was that no new spending should take place that wasn’t already budgeted for until the city could pay off the principal on its bonds and rid itself of debt completely.  Honestly not a bad idea, but for the fact that the city really needs another hospital, seeing how the sole hospital in Hell gets an F.  Still, one shitty hospital is better than no hospitals, right?

Of course, the mayor was sure to get his man-made moat-lake and forest and personal power plant built before issuing this decree.

19

Hell Tech, where the children of Hell learn to become efficient worker bees, is overcrowded too.  But it’s not too badly overcrowded.  Only 38 students in are forced to sit on the floor and have class in the hall instead of in a classroom.  And enough of the students are in detention (or in juvenile hall) enough of the time that there isn’t a real overcrowding problem anyway.

19d

After seven years of austerity and an overcrowded hospital and school and too few police stations, the city finally saves enough to pay off its first bond.  This only leaves the second one to deal with, reducing the city’s bond-related expenses and driving up revenue.  Even though each bond has to be paid off in full, you can pay off each one separately, so once you have $10,000 in the bank and no impending necessary expenses like an almost-dead power plant, it’s not a bad idea to get rid of that debt.

19f

As Hell marches towards freedom from its bond payments, we can see that the new coal power plant is nowhere near dying.  It and its predecessor have been spewing out deadly coal dust or soot or something from their smokestacks for 69 years straight.  That’s something to be proud of.  It is running almost at capacity, though, so once growth starts again, we’ll have to find a new energy solution.  Or just keep building more hydroelectric dams, because they’re now powering more of the city than the coal plant.  (Hydroelectric dams also don’t fail every 50 years – they last forever without further maintenance payments.)

19g

Now that Hell is freeing more of its revenue for future spending, let’s look at what we’ve already done.  The four buttons near the bottom of the toolbar are useful in this regard.  The button on the bottom right of this section shows how the city is zoned without any of the pesky buildings in the way.  Proper zoning is important – you can’t just throw a zone wherever and expect it to get developed.  Zones will only develop within three tiles of a road.  Industrial zones should generally be placed away from residential (although we decided not to be so careful in this case) and commercial zones should be interspersed throughout the city to make the industrial and residential zones more active – basically so people have places to go to get lunch or shop for clothes or to watch sex movies in an adult theater.

Notice that while the churches are built in residential zones, they’re not officially part of those zones.  I think there was a cheat in the DOS version of the game that caused a lot of churches to be built all at once, if you typed in a swear word.

19h

The top left button in the group does more or less the same thing, showing zones, along with the specialty buildings, this time in orange.  I never used this mode as a kid, and I don’t use it now.

19i

This button on the bottom left removes the roads, power lines and trees from the map.  As far as I can tell, this mode is only really useful when you’re trying to place water mains under roads and want to see what you’re doing.

Finally, the bottom right button makes all the signs on the map invisible.  Signs can be intrusive, so this is a useful tool.  We haven’t created any signs yet, but let’s try making one with the SIGN button in the middle of the toolbar.

19j

Just type the text in, and…

19k

… now we know that someone in this apartment complex likes balls.

To remove the sign, click on it with the sign tool again and delete the text.

19l

There’s also the help button.  It brings up the game’s help file index and screws up the graphics.  I’m not sure if it’s the game’s fault or just the fact that I’m playing on VirtualBox.

19m

As the city continues to work towards paying off its bonds, another wave of tornadoes descends upon it.  The first twister destroys the exact same factory that was knocked over in the tornado wave 12 years earlier, but misses every other building in the city.  This property must be cursed.

19o

A second tornado touches down to the southwest, well away from the city.  However, it comes dangerously close to the mayor’s residence on its way south.  The passed out mayor has to be carried to the basement by his staff while the tornado passes.

19p

Once again, the writers at the Courier decide to make up a story about the tornado causing millions of dollars in damage, even though it didn’t do much of anything aside from vaguely threaten the mayor’s mansion.  The Courier is mostly used as bird cage lining by Hell’s residents now, so nobody notices.

20

After tornado season passes, business continues as usual in Hell.  Out of nowhere, the ordinance advisor demands that the mayor fund an anti-drug campaign to help Hell’s children.  A staffer advises her that the mayor isn’t available (meaning he’s sleeping off a hangover) but that he’s pretty sure the mayor doesn’t care enough to approve funding.  Go away, ordinance advisor.  Unless you have ideas about saving money.

Even though the city’s bonds have been almost paid off, life isn’t getting any better for most of Hell’s citizens.  In fact, the austerity program that the mayor put in place is probably making life worse.  Will Mayor Scarface loosen his grip on the city before the citizens have finally had enough and riot?  Will he be deposed?  Will he perhaps go out in a blaze of glory firing a huge machine gun at his enemies who are trying to invade his mansion, a giant white mountain of cocaine in the background?  Or will Heaven make its will known by sending another tornado, this time directed straight towards his house?  Only time will tell.

SimCity 2000, Part V: The hand of an angry God

14d

Fifty years after its founding, Hell has become a minor center of industry and trade.  This squalid, run-down, waterless, filthy pit of a city somehow continues to attract new citizens, probably because of its low property taxes and abundance of cheap accommodations.  Granted, most of those accommodations are about as desirable to live in as a gas station toilet, and most of them are also in neighborhoods where a stranger approaching you on the sidewalk is as likely to say hello as he is to pull a knife on you and demand your wallet.  But Hell seems to be good enough for almost 25,000 people to call home.

The poorest of those people live near the coal-powered plant.  And the coal plant is about to reach the end of its life.

15

In SimCity 2000, when a power plant reaches the end of its lifespan, it explodes.  The explosion doesn’t take out any of the buildings around it – it’s more of an implosion – but it’s still annoying because you have to replace your old plant immediately with a new one or else risk a city-wide blackout and a drop in population.  And yes, the paper reminds you of this with a special report.  (If you play SimCity 2000 with the “No Disasters” tab checked in the Disasters menu at the top, the plant is automatically replaced and you’re charged however much it would have cost to rebuild it.  But we don’t play with No Disasters checked, because that’s no way to play.  If you’re playing with No Disasters checked, you may as well be playing in Easy Mode.  And we know what they say about people who play in Easy Mode.)

15a

Coincidentally, one month after the warning of the imminent death of the coal plant, we learn that gas power is now an option!  Is this the power solution we’ve been waiting for?

15c

The answer is no.  No, it isn’t.  Gas power is bullshit.  It’s relatively clean but one plant can barely power two city blocks.  Hydroelectric power is so much better, even if you have to place waterfalls for it, that it’s not even funny (hydroelectric dams also don’t take up space better used for residential/commercial/industrial zoning because they’re placed exclusively on slopes.)  So, yeah.  There’s no situation where you should be using gas power unless you can really spare the space.

15d

One year later, boom goes the coal plant.  The mayor is drunk in his office as usual, but fortunately, almost by accident, he hired a competent energy manager, and the plant was immediately replaced with a fresh one spewing out fresh soot onto Hell’s residents.

15f

A few years later, NYU develops an even newer source of energy: nuclear power.  While not very efficient, nuclear plants don’t produce a lot of pollution and are one of the better sources of power in the game… as long as you have disasters turned off.

In any case, we can’t afford to build a nuclear plant yet, and it would be a real waste of money to replace the coal plant we already rebuilt.

Meanwhile, Hell continues to expand.  The city planners plow almost all of the tax revenue collected every year into zoning and building.  The new neighborhoods include a budding industrial district to the northwest of the city.  Some genius, possibly a graduate of Hell’s only school, decided this was the place to build a high-end resort: right across from a bunch of factories and chemical storage tanks.

16a

On the other hand, it’s only mildly polluted, so maybe it’s not such a bad place for a hotel.

16e

At the behest of a crowd of angry protesters outside his office, the mayor eventually decides to fund the creation of neighborhood watch programs.  The program turns out to simply involve arming all the residents of the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates and allowing Death Wish-style wars between gangs and bands of law-abiding citizens.

Crime rates do technically fall, though, so the mayor keeps the program in place.

16f

Sadly, Hell is not untouched by natural disasters.  After 59 relatively quiet years, a tornado touches down.  Luckily for the citizens of Hell, though, it doesn’t get anywhere near the city.

16g

The Courier still reports on it, though.

16j

One month later, another tornado passes by Hell without causing any damage.  Two tornadoes in one year after 59 years of no tornadoes seems a little weird, but at least neither of them did any damage.

16k

The reporters at the Courier, who don’t believe in fact-checking, claim that the second tornado caused “incredible devastation”, but all it did was disturb a few shrubs out in the desert.

16l

Later in the same month, though, a third goddamn tornado hits Hell.  And this time, it actually does some damage, taking out a couple of factories on the edge of the city.

16m

This twister passes dangerously close to the city on its way south, as if taunting it.  Firefighters are sent to the scene, but as usual, they wonder why the hell they were dispatched, because they can’t actually do anything about a tornado.

16n

Three tornadoes in one month after 59 years of no tornadoes isn’t a coincidence.  It’s a sign of God’s wrath.  Thankfully, God only seemed to be giving the city a warning, because none of the tornadoes did a whole lot of damage.  If one of them had ripped right through the middle of town, though – that would have been a different story.

The recent tornado scare is soon forgotten, however, when Hell reaches its greatest milestone yet: 30,000 citizens.  In recognition of its achievement, the state government bestows a great honor upon the city:

17

The Courier proudly trumpets that Hell is now the home of the state government, and that funds for a statue have been given to the city, because what’s a state capital without a good statue?  The citizens of Hell, meanwhile, wonder how bad every other city in the state must be that their crapbucket of a city got chosen as its capital.

Four promising games from PAX South 2017

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend PAX South, the southern chapter of the massive annual game conference held in San Antonio, TX.  I also had the fortune to contract an illness at PAX that also hit hundreds of other con-goers and that put me out of the office for a few days this week.  Most importantly, though, I was able to play/observe a few new interesting games in the expo hall that, when they come out, might help distract me from everything that went wrong in my life and everything I’ll do wrong in the future.  These games included the following:

1. The Shrouded Isle

shroudedisle

Described by developer Kitfox Games as a “cult village management simulator”, The Shrouded Isle puts you in the role of the priest of a seaside town.  Your chief duty as priest is to maintain your town’s good moral character, in part by offering regular human sacrifices to appease the undersea monster-god that lurks near its shores.  With his power as the town priest, the player can also uncover heresies and punish people accordingly (maybe by making them the next course on the human sacrifice menu?)  The sacrifices are chosen from the town’s five most prominent families, though, and pissing off one of the families too much by choosing too many of them to sacrifice seems like it would probably be a bad idea.

The Shrouded Isle is currently scheduled to come out on Steam this summer, and I’ll probably check it out.  The interesting art style and the human sacrifice angle really pulled me in.  And it promises some potential Lovecraftian god-destruction too, and what more can you ask for than that.

2. Beat Cop

beatcop

Beat Cop puts you in the well-worn shoes of a New York City policeman patrolling the streets.  And this is NYC in the 1980s, before former mayor/current psychotic Rudy Giuliani solved the city’s crime problems by having all the homeless guys shipped out, so you’re in for a hard time.  You’re tasked with writing tickets and catching thieves trying to make off with valuables from the stores on your assigned block, but you can also talk to pedestrians and business owners and try to get leads on cases.  (You can even solicit a prostitute, as I found out when I tried to arrest one!  Needless to say she did not get arrested.)  There’s also a plot involving your character, Jack Kelly, and mob connections, or a framed murder, or something.  Anyway, the game was pretty fun for the ten minutes I played it and it’s developed by some guys called 11 bit studios out of Poland, which explains some of the wonky English on the game’s Steam page.  It’s coming out this spring supposedly, so keep an eye out if the idea of playing a pixellated Dirty Harry sounds fun to you.

3. Holy Potatoes!  We’re in Space?!

space-potato

This weirdly titled game seems to be essentially FTL starring potato-based life forms, which is admittedly strange.  But if you like FTL and you don’t mind potatoes, and way way too many potato-based puns, then this game could be for you.  Not much else to say about it.  Daylight Studios also released a game called Holy Potatoes!  A Weapon Shop?! a while back that I didn’t play, so this whole potato thing seems to be working out for them.  This one’s being released on Valentine’s Day next week, so if you don’t have a date and you were just planning to sit at home and eat a quart of ice cream or drink a pint of whiskey alone in your apartment, maybe you can check this game out instead.

4. Freedom Planet 2

Yeah!  We’ve known the sequel to Freedom Planet, the best Sonic game since 1994, would be coming out for over a year now, but we now have a playable demo, available at GalaxyTrail’s site at the link above.  I can say that the sequel looks even better than the original, and I liked Freedom Planet a whole lot.  This series is sort of filling the hole left by the fact that Sonic games have been mostly total garbage since the mid-90s.  It’s like a trip back into the past for me.  Not every game developer who goes for that retro-nostalgia appeal succeeds, but GalaxyTrail succeeded at it the first time around.  There doesn’t seem to be a release date for Freedom Planet 2 yet, but I’ll be watching, and if Sonic-style 2D 90s action done right sounds like fun to you, you should be watching too.

SimCity 2000, Part IV: Smog Apocalypse

Several years pass, and Hell continues to grow, slowly spilling out into the surrounding hills and valleys.

10

A new development thrives to the east of the original settlement, though it’s still polluted and crime-ridden.  The presence of the stately city hall building makes this street a little classier than the rest, however.

10b

The mayor makes a point of visiting the city assembly as little as possible.  Whenever he shows up there, the newly elected representatives of Hell’s wards ask him a lot of questions that he doesn’t have answers to.  Like “where’s the running water in my constituents’ ward” or “why is there a constant light blue cloud of fog hanging over the industrial district.”  Better for the mayor to stay in his office, where security can make sure those troublemakers can’t get to him so easily.

10c

City Hall does more than look pretty.  It allows the player to find out how much of his city’s currently developed land is being used for what purpose.  Not terribly useful, but it’s more information, at least.

10h

The mayor finally caved to public pressure and approved the construction of a hospital and a school.  The hospital so that Hell’s residents can live longer for the purpose of paying more taxes, and the school so that the children of Hell’s growing population can at least learn to count change and use manufacturing machinery without getting their arms chopped off.

11

Big news arrives: the aeroplane has been invented!  This means we can build an aeroport.  Only we can’t, because each airport tile costs $250 and you need at least a 2×6 block of airport tiles to build a functioning one.

Aside from breaking news, the Courier still carries concerns about the city’s pollution.  Typical liberal media scare tactics.

11b

What the reporter didn’t catch was the mayor’s sarcastic tone when he said the municipality would assess the pollution problem.  He set up a “Pollution Commission” five years ago at the insistence of his advisors and it met a grand total of three times, and all three times the whole commission just decided to adjourn to the bar downstairs because it didn’t have a budget to actually do anything.

At least the city’s finances are healthy.  Those oppressive interest payments are still due at the end of every year, but the city can afford to make them now.  Of course, the city’s advisors want to make absolutely sure that that won’t be the case anymore by touting their pet projects.

12a

Let me tell you who it wouldn’t benefit, Ms. Health Advisor: smokers.  If the citizens of Hell don’t want to breathe in smoke, they can hold their breaths.  Or buy gas masks, because most of the city’s air is pretty hard to breathe without a filter.

Of course, the same advisor has another brilliant scheme:

12b

Since the mayor is unelected in this game, he doesn’t really give a fuck whether he’s popular.  He does give a fuck whether something is expensive, though.  No free clinics.

Let’s hear from the city’s other advisors.

12c

Absolutely not.  Hell Technical Institute is school enough for the little bastards.

Never mind.  We’ve heard enough from the city’s advisors.  These idiots actually think pollution is a problem.  It can’t be that much of a problem if people are still moving in and adding to the taxpayer base.

12e

Shit.

The city’s sirens sound as a thick cloud of smog, thicker than usual,  ascends from the industrial zone and blankets a corner of the neighborhood.  Since this is an emergency, the game pauses and we now have the option to send police and firefighters to the scene.  The mayor promptly dispatches firetrucks from the city’s two fire stations to resolve the situation.

12g

The firemen arrive, get out of their trucks and look at the cloud of smog, unsure of what to do about it.  One firefighter suggests shooting water at it with the hose.  Another firefighter calls him a dumbass.

Eventually the cloud dissipates and the firefighters return to their stations.

12h

After every disaster, the city paper puts out a special report.  The headline “Hell is Toxic” seems like a reasonable one, considering that we’re in Hell and that it is in fact pretty toxic.

Fortunately, though, the pollution scare doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect on anything.  It caused a few buildings in the southeastern corner of the crater to turn abandoned, but they were reoccupied shortly after.  Still, the incident finally pushes the mayor to institute pollution controls, if only for the good press and to attract more residents to Hell.

13a

Pollution controls cost serious money.  And it’s not too obvious that they’re working.  This abandoned building, for example, is still home to heavy pollutants.  In a way it’s good that it’s abandoned, because it probably isn’t fit for humans to live or work in under any circumstances.

13b

Hell is still pollution-ridden, crime-ridden and full of angry citizens with no access to running water.  And while it’s receiving a positive cash flow, it’s also still very far from paying off the $20,000 principal on its bonds.  Will Hell pull itself out of its stagnation?  Don’t ask the mayor, because he doesn’t know.  Also, you probably can’t ask him, because he’s siphoned off some of the tax revenue coming in to hire more security.

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.