Interview: Jason Haber on SimCity


simcitySimCity is one of those early PC games that almost everyone has come across at some point. Some made grand cities, others started fires and called down aliens. The 2013 reboot is set to change the whole game. We grabbed producer Jason Haber and picked his brain.

Jason-HaberMeet Jason Haber, producer of SimCity. Jason has worked for Maxis for over six years, helping create titles such as Spore, Darkspore and a little known XBLA gem called Microbot. He’s also diversified lending his talents to design educational toys for Leapfrog making learning that little bit more fun.

What are some of the main features you want people to know about?

First and foremost I think people should know that this is an all new SimCity, built from the ground up. It’s using our new engine called Glassbox and it’s the most detailed and complex simulation engine we have ever made. Our new system allows you to really reach inside the world and tinker and play with everything. The thing that makes it really special is that not only can you really change everything but it’s a living world and it will respond to what you do. It also allows us to work with our new multi-city concept where you can have all of these different cities running at the same time, all influencing each other and then this can lead online too.

Graphics look great!

It’s pretty… it’s so damned pretty!

We saw some of the multi-city idea in your presentation. Can you elaborate?

OK, so Sims can travel from city to city. They can work in one city and live in another. Sims can shop and gamble in other cities. Resources can be shared, power, water, sewage, etc. You can share power from a city and not even have a power plant in another. Services can be shared, police, fire, hospital services can all be shared. This means you can have city specialization. We have some specialization we guide you down like casino cities or extraction cities that are focused on getting things like coal or oil out of the ground or even manufacturing cities that are all about making plastics or electronics. In the demo we showed you I had created a garbage city. It had a recycling plant that could go to other cities and collect garbage and process it down to raw materials to use on the city or sell back to other cities.

Just how accessible is the reboot ?

Well , we have spent a lot of time on this. We looked at SimCity 4 and there is a lot of menus and statistics to monitor, etc. These things can be intimidating to new players. So what we did was strip back the data layer, which was full of numbers, and instead present it in a more info graphic style. This will help people understand what’s going on under the surface. Another thing that will help new players are different advisors you have. They will kind of guide you to do the right thing throughout the game. Then you have the Sims themselves. They will ask you for things and you can peer into their thoughts to get an idea of what they thinking about and use these as hints for what to do next. On the other hand though, you can still dig into those data layers later on. The information is there when players are ready.

Was it key to bring in a stronger visual aspect?

Absolutely. Ocean Quigley our creative director always says “The art serves the simulation” and this is what we wanted get a cross, not only does the world look cool and interesting, but it helps you better understand what’s going on and help you know what needs to be done. When you see that traffic jam now you can count the cars and know how much of a problem it is. This gives the whole experience a lot more impact.

A bustling metroplis

A bustling metropolis, made in minutes

Speaking of impact, thanks for getting rid of power lines…

(laughs) You’re  welcome.

What are you the most proud of in the game?

I think it’s the engine. Glassbox just makes everything more fun. Not only am I more  engaged, but when I am waiting for enough money to do something I can just zoom in and watch the city be alive, watching new Sims arrive, seeing things play out.

SimCity is out March 7, 2013. Check out the trailer below!

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Joshua Philpott

Tech MacGyver
Games writer, podcaster and tech wizard. Obsessed with obscure horror films, crazy gadgets and caffeine. Passionate, argumentative and open minded. Freelance writer and co-founder rawDLC.

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