SimCity 2000, Part XIII: The Tower of Power

Despite its many, many problems, Hell continues to grow in population.  The city’s money problems are now a distant memory, and most of the land within the city limits has been developed.  But there’s still room to expand the city’s tax base.  Demand for growth in all three sectors is strong.  It’s only a matter of time before Hell begins to rival major cities in SimNation.  This unfortunately means that the mayor may have to sponsor a few more expensive ordinances that help improve life in the city – but then again, life doesn’t have to be improved too much to attract new residents.

However, the universe will not allow Hell to succeed so easily.  A series of plagues rains down from the heavens.  The first is a drop in Hell’s industrial demand.  The city’s manufacturing sector collapses and businesses move out of the city, leaving the old industrial core of Hell an abandoned wasteland.

Natural disasters follow this collapse.  Just a year or two later, a massive tornado tears through the center of the city.  Remember those tornadoes back in the 20th century that blew around in the desert and maybe knocked over a factory and a warehouse on the outskirts of town?  Now that Hell is fully developed, there’s no escaping its devastation.

The twister heads north, ripping apart houses, roads and a section of the highway before moving on to annoy Sinistrel.

Naturally, the tornado cut a part of the city off from the electrical grid, so everything needs to be reconnected.  Road and highway connections also have to be reestablished.  The mayor is just happy that the tornado didn’t take out the stadium, because that thing was expensive to build.

Hell is forced to recover from a devastating tornado and its industrial sector is still depressed.  However, the party isn’t over yet.  For some reason – perhaps the loss of jobs in the industrial sector – the city’s demand for residential and commercial growth also falter.  Despite the city’s already low tax rates to encourage growth, the population falls by 5,000 in a few years.

As if that weren’t enough, another earthquake strikes one year later, destroying the city’s remaining coal plant and setting off fires throughout the city.  The nuclear plant is thankfully not damaged, but the destruction isn’t trivial.  Thanks to Hell’s robust firefighting service, the fires are quickly put out with minimal damage resulting.

The fires are out, but we’ve got the same problem as we had after the first earthquake – what to replace that coal plant with?

Now we have all nine power options available.  The fusion plant at the bottom right is the most powerful and cost-effective, but it’s also the most expensive and therefore the most difficult to replace if it’s destroyed in an accident.*  That’s no good.  And we don’t really need that much energy anyway.  Let’s just rebuild that coal plant.

Yeah, of course the fuckin’ citizens don’t like it.  But they’ll have to go home eventually.  As long as you’re persistent, you can place that filthy, polluting coal plant wherever you want.  In fact, the edge of the map is a good place for a coal plant because a lot of that pollution it’s generating is going to sort of just blow off of the map, in this case into the neighboring town of Sinistrel.  And they can’t do anything about it.

One year later, industrial demand is back up because the mayor ordered more rail connections to Hell’s neighbors built.  But residential and commercial demand are still anemic.  And the pigeons still aren’t perching on the mayor’s statue downtown.

Several years pass and Hell continues to stagnate.  The mayor finally decides to do something about the recession so tax revenue can keep increasing.  What to do, though?

In SimCity 2000, the player has the ability not only to modify the overall property tax rate but also the individual rates on residential, commercial, and industrial property.  Basically, if you want to drive up demand in one area, lower the tax rate on property in that area.  Since the mayor wants to bring more residents to Hell, he lowers the residential tax rate to 3%, and to make up for the lower revenue he cranks up the industrial rate to 6%.  Will this have the desired effect?  We’ll have to wait a year or two to find out.

In the meantime, the Courier reminds us that the nuclear plant is almost dead and is going to explode.  Don’t worry about this.  The nuclear plant in SimCity falls apart after 50 years just like every other plant does – without causing any other damage, meaning it’s not going to melt down.  The only real concern here, again, is what we should replace it with.

Two years later, the plant implodes.  The mayor immediately demands the building of a new nuclear plant to replace the old one.  His advisors remind him that a plane nearly crashed into the plant not too long ago and that a meltdown could have resulted from that, and that an earthquake a mere 11 years ago almost destroyed the plant, also with potentially catastrophic consequences.  But the mayor brushes off their concerns.  Hell, the nuclear plant didn’t melt down, so what’s the problem?

Plonk.  That nuclear plant is rebuilt.  Not even a protest this time, either.  Maybe the people of Hell have gotten used to the constant threat of a horrible death by radiation.**

I also missed a piece of road destroyed in the earthquake that needed repairing.  This is why the zones-only view is nice – it catches things that can easily be missed because they’re obscured by the city’s buildings.

Despite the problems faced by Hell these rough two decades, the mayor’s plan worked – demand in all sectors is back up.  The recession has been weathered, the city is back up and running, and after setbacks and disasters it has finally reached the 90,000 citizen mark.  And with this milestone came a new reward: the bizarrely named Braun Llama Dome.  The city’s grant of funds to build this prefabricated giant tower was given to the mayor in the hopes that he would find a suitable place in the city itself and build it there, for all the citizens to admire, and also to take the elevator up to the revolving restaurant at the top.  But the mayor had very different plans.

Instead of placing the Llama Dome in the city, the mayor instead ordered an artificial peninsula created near his mansion and the Dome built upon it, so that he could relocate his residence to the revolving restaurant, now converted into a massive swanky apartment.  Clean energy in this part of town is a must, so the Dome is powered by four wind turbines.  These windmills produce 4 MHz of power each and of course produce no pollution.  As a result, just like the Mayor’s former abode, the Dome is fully self-sufficient and can sustain a small population (the mayor and his closest advisors and staff) for a long period of time without the need for restocking supplies.  The old mansion is left standing to act as the mayor’s second home.

A new age has dawned in Hell, though as usual, it remains to be seen whether this new age is going to alleviate the overcrowding and crime and health problems that the city faces.  Let’s be honest; it probably won’t.

* In real life, a fusion plant would be really nice to have, but that technology doesn’t exist yet on the scale necessary to generate power in a cost-effective way.  The Sun has been generating power through nuclear fusion for billions of years, but we’re not quite at that level yet.  SimCity 2000 makes a rough prediction for the first fusion plant in 2050, and scientists and engineers are already trying to construct efficient fusion reactors at this very moment, so hopefully this technology will become a reality soon.

** I live in the general vicinity of two nuclear fission reactors according to US Department of Energy.  Thankfully, we’ve only ever had one major accident involving a nuclear plant in my country, and it didn’t result in any deaths as far as we know.  Let’s hope that record is maintained.

SimCity 2000, Part X: The Nuclear Option

Sometimes – just on rare occasions – the Courier, Hell’s terrible newspaper, gets a story right.  In this case, that story had to do with Hell’s very first power plant.

The Courier is referring here to the two solar plants powering the upper-class southwestern district of the city, but this story also acted as a harbinger of something else that is soon to come.

One morning in November 2038, not a year after that headline, an earthquake – the first earthquake in the 138 years that the city has existed – shook Hell.  Several buildings, along with a section of highway, were immediately destroyed, among them the central coal plant that powered a large part of the city.  A massive fire started in downtown Hell after the coal plant exploded.

Looking at this fire, you might think downtown is fucked.  That fire is going to spread all over the place… right?

Wrong.  Fires are easy to take care of in SimCity 2000.  By pausing the game, you can destroy all the properties, roads, power lines, trees and other things immediately surrounding the fire without worrying about its spreading.  Once that’s done, the fire will have nowhere to spread and the firefighter units can safely contain and put out the blaze.  This is a good time to use the zone-only view so you can try to avoid specialty buildings and services as much as possible.

Do you think it’s cheap to pause the game to contain the fires?  Feel free to think that, but the makers put that capability in the game, and you don’t have to enter a cheat code to do it (and there are several cheat codes in SimCity that make the game a whole lot easier.)  So I don’t consider this cheating.  Maybe it’s a bit cheap, but then again maybe it’s cheap of the game to spring an earthquake on me after 138 years of no earthquakes.

In any case, this earthquake has definitely come with a cost.  Undoubtedly a human cost, because at least a few buildings went down around the city, and also an economic cost.

The Courier again amazingly gets something right when it reports that a dam was damaged in the quake – a few were taken out in the initial quake and another one was destroyed by fire.  The paper somehow neglects to mention that the massive fucking coal plant in the middle of town exploded, however.

At least the mayor said he didn’t like the fact that the earthquake happened.  He may be a huge dick, but he’s not such a dick that he’ll openly revel in his people’s misery.  Well, not yet, anyway.

A large part of the city is now without power as a result of the coal plant’s destruction.  We’ll have to replace it right away to avoid the abandonment of the unpowered sections of the city and a massive drop in population.

Unlike in 1900, we have a lot of power generation options now.  We’re only missing one, in fact – it has yet to be developed – but it’s something of a moot point because we don’t actually need that much power yet anyway.  Still, now might be a good time, since the city has a steady surplus coming in every year, to upgrade our power plant from coal.

What to pick?  Oil power isn’t much of an upgrade, although it is less polluting than coal.  Gas and solar power are too weak.  Wind power can be good for powering small areas independently, but it would take an assload of wind turbines to generate the kind of power we need.  More dams are an option, but we’d need to place a lot of waterfalls for that, and that can get expensive.  And microwave power, the newest form of energy, is just a hair too expensive to build.  True, we could wait a month, but it’s still overkill as far as power provided goes.

So what’s left?

Oh yes.  Nuclear power.  The game is sort of lying here – nuclear isn’t actually all that efficient if you look at megawatt per dollar, but it is very clean.  And the 500 Mw generated by the plant will be nice.  However, there is the possibility – not a likely one, but it exists nonetheless – that the plant will go Chernobyl and turn Hell into an actual hell of fire and radiation.

The decision is naturally up to the mayor.  And the mayor has an emergency bunker and a contingency plan borrowed from Dr. Strangelove just in case the worst occurs.  But really, what are the chances of that?  Nuclear plants have plenty of measures to prevent meltdowns, right?

The mayor makes an executive decision: build that nuclear plant.  Right in the heart of downtown where the old coal plant was, because there really isn’t any other good place for it at the moment.

However, once the word starts to go around that the city authorities are about to build a nuclear plant, a large contingent of citizens gather in the devastated ward and camp out in tents to protest the plan and to prevent it from occurring.  The engineers and laborers sent out to build the plant are ordered by the mayor to back down – for the time being.

When a certain facility that people don’t like – like a nuclear power plant – is planned to be built near a residential area, they can prevent the player from placing it.  (The same is true of water treatment plants, which apparently spew out a lot of pollutants.)  However, they can’t prevent the placement of the facility every single time the player attempts to build it.  The mayor waits until the protesters go home, then he sends his workers out again to build the nuclear plant.  And this time they build it.

Now it’s time to reconnect the western half of the city to the power grid.  The nuclear plant will both produce more energy and pollute much less than the coal plant did.  There is the whole meltdown thing, but again… not that likely, really.

Once the rubble is cleared and the city is full powered again, we can survey the damage.  The city’s population dropped by about 5,000 as a result of the earthquake, both from buildings being destroyed during the quake and from people moving out of unpowered zones afterward.

Hell’s future at this point is uncertain.  With the mayor at the helm, though… no.  There’s still absolutely no certainty about the future.