Bedlam in Simcity
UnixWorld April 1993
Small vendor Dux brings popular PC and Macintosh computer game to UNIX workstations--and
it's a hit.
Product Review by Edwin C. Perkins Jr.
[Full color screen snapshot]
As mayor in the Simcity game, you need to manage, expand, and improve a
city while remaining popular with the citizens.
Short of some public-domain products, the UNIX market has never had a top-quality
video game. Simcity from Dux Sofware Corp. ends the drought, and in doing
so, could bring video gamesmanship to new heights. Imagine, for instance,
several users playing a single game against the computer in multiuser fashion,
cooperating with each other to best the CPU.
At publication time, Dux was set to release its multiuser version, and if
Simcity 1.0 is any indication, it will make an almost perfect product better.
Currently a best seller on PC and Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh systems,
Simcity is a game for all ages. The goal is to build a city that is impervious
to social and natural disasters, such as crime waves, drive-by shootings,
fires, and earthquakes. In circles including universities, corporations,
and even the Boston city planning commission, Simcity is also used as a
Simcity was written by Maxis Software Inc. (Orinda, Calif.) and ported to
UNIX and the X Window System by Dux. If you have a SPARCstation with SunOS
4.1 or later, Openwindows 3, and at least 12 megabytes of system memory,
you have what you need to run Simcity. Best of all, Simcity installs in
a snap and sells for only $89 a copy.
Dux did an excellent job porting Simcity to UNIX. There is little inconsistency
between the UNIX version and the PC and Macintosh version. The graphics
are fantastic, and the sound effects -- including a ship's whistle -- are
realistic. After installing the program, be sure to get the license key.
Without it, the computer lets you play awhile, but then destroys your city
The game has two distinct modes: you can build a city from scratch, or you
can try to manage a disaster that has stricken an existing city. As in a
real community, you must adhere to zoning laws and designate buildings as
industrial, commercial, or residential. You must also construct power plants,
build roads and railways, and run power lines. After you get things set
up, cars begin to cruise down roads and trains start hauling freight and
people, who are called Simians.
Beware the Polls
As the number of Simians grow, beware of the frequent public-opinion polls
in Simcity. It's crucial that you keep an overall approval rating of 50
percent or better. To do so, you must maintain a constantly changing equilibrium
between construction and taxes -- not an easy task. To stay popular, you
must expand the city, but building costs money. If you pay for it our of
the taxpayers' pockets, they get angry. And in Simcity, deficit spending
is absolutely forbidden.
Successfully expanding Simcity leads to more concerns. For one thing, your
transportation system becomers woefully inadequate. As a result, you get
reports of drive-by shootings, and suggestions that you install bullet-proof
glass in your car. A massive expansion of your rail system is usually your
If taxes and transportation are too mundane for your tastes, Simcity offers
other challenges. The package includes eight scenarios -- seven of which
are set in real cities -- that put you in charge of a city during a disaster,
such as an earthquake or nuclear meltdown. You have to rebuild the city
in an alloted amount of time while keeping the population happy.
We played out the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. As soon as the game started,
a large earthquake hit the city and buildings began burning like so much
popping popcorn. In addition to fighting the fire, we had to bulldoze large
areas around fires to prevent them from spreading. Trying to maintain electricity
in all of the areas then became a major challenge. As we were bulldozing
fires, we ended up completely destroying the power grid. Then a tornado
hit the city, blowing up factories and causing more fires to spread.
After trying to rebuild San Francisco in the allotted time, and failing
miserably, we received an impeachment notice with the message, "An
angry mob, led by your mother, has been spotted in the vicinity of City
Hall. The population of this city has had enough of your inept and incompetent
management." The game then "suggested" we retire, and our
tenure as mayor of San Francisco was over.
On a more successful note, we started a city from scratch and maintained
a 72 percent approval rating from its 29,730 residents. We built two nuclear
power plants, three fire stations, four police stations, and an airport.
We also provided many factories to keep unemployment down, and a football
stadium to divert the masses. Income steadily rose for some time. Then we
started writing this review and our neglect immediately led the Simians
into a recession.
Simcity for Sun workstations has some added features not available on other
platforms. Dux ported Simcity to Unix using Hyperlook from the Turing Institute
Ltd. (Glasgow, Scotland), and added a Postscript drawing tool. The tool
lets you create simple drawings, and import them into other products such
as Framemaker from Frame Technology Corp.
Simcity also has pie menus, or wheels with a tool on each spoke, for quick
access to construction tools. Another nifty feature is zoom windows, which
let you choose whether to display more detail or more area in a selected
window. With the large monitors common on SPARCstations, zoom windows make
it easier to track events in the city. Large monitors also let you open
and view many windows simultaneously, which lets you gain easier access
to information such as population growth rates and pollution problems. According
to Dux, its networked multiuser version, which includes support for audio
conferencing, was slated for release by April.
Simcity is a great device for realistically showing what it takes to run
a city. Your planning skills -- whether you need them to redevelop the City
of Boston, or just sharpen your logic -- get a boost from the game. And
if nothing else, Simcity is a great way to introduce a new user to UNIX
on a workstation.
- Contact Info:
Dux Software Corp.
4906 El Camino Real
Los Altos, CA 94022
800-543-4999 or 415-967-1500
- (+) Easy to install.
Well-designed user interface.
Innovative pie menus.
Excellent zoom window feature.
- (-) Caution: may waste hours of your time.
- Version: 1.0
- Systems: Silicon Graphics workstations and Sun SPARCstations.
- Licensing: Per CPU, floating license, or by site.
- Price: $89 per CPU.