SimCity and Urban Planning/Basic Concepts

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Obviously, by the game name, you should have guessed this has something to building cities. There are many, many different things to do.

Gameplay is controlled by the mouse, and the graphics are pre-rendered on an isometric grid that can be zoomed in and out.

Introduction to real-life Urban Planning[edit]

Urban, city, or town planning, deals with design of the built environment from the municipal and metropolitan perspective. Other professions deal in more detail with a smaller scale of development, namely architecture, landscape architecture and urban design. Regional planning deals with a still larger environment, at a less detailed level. The Greek Hippodamus is often considered the father of city planning, for his design of Miletus, though examples of planned cities permeate antiquity. Muslims are thought to have originated the idea of formal zoning (see haram and hima and the more general notion of khalifa, or "stewardship" from which they arise), although modern usage in the West largely dates from the ideas of the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne.

The Indus Valley civilization is recognized as having been the first to develop urban planning. By 2600 BC some pre-Harappan settlements grew into cities containing thousands of people who were not primarily engaged in agriculture, creating a unified culture whose sudden appearance appears to have been the result of planned, deliberate effort. Some settlements appear to have been deliberately rearranged to conform to a conscious, well-developed plan. For this reason, the Indus Valley civilization is recognized as having first developed urban planning.

In ancient times, Romans used a consolidated scheme for city planning, developed for military defense and civil convenience. Effectively, many European towns still preserve the essence of these schemes, as in Turin. The basic plan is a central plaza with city services, surrounded by a compact grid of streets and wrapped in a wall for defense. To reduce travel times, two diagonal streets cross the square grid corner-to-corner, passing through the central square. A river usually flows through the city, to provide water and transport, and carry away sewage, even in sieges.

Modern city planning embraces the organization, or conscious influencing, of land-use distribution in an area already built-up or intended to become built-up. Many of the concepts of real-life Urban and City planning have been incorporated into the SimCity games.

Introduction to American Municipal Government[edit]

In the United States, municipalities such as cities, towns, or villages are the level of local government below that of the county (although many states also have civil townships which are a separate type of government below the county level but distinct from municipalities). Most U.S. municipalities are governed in one of two ways, Council-Manager government and Mayor-Council government. A third form, the City Commission government, was once common but has fallen out of favor.

A partial list of some of the more common rights and responsibilities of a municipality include:

  • The ability to require payment of taxes by entities (people and corporations) who own, use, occupy, or legally interact with other entities that own, use, or are legally located within the municipality's geographic boundaries;
  • The ability to create debt on behalf of the citizens, who are responsible for repayment of those debts;
  • The responsibility to enforce various federal, state, and municipal laws with a police force;
  • The responsibility to provide for civil defence and other special needs.

Municipal governments are usually divided into several administrative departments, depending on the size of the municipality. Though municipalities differ in the division of responsibility, the typical arrangement is to have the following departments handle the following roles:

  • Urban planning and zoning:
  • Public works: construction and maintenance of all municipality-owned or operated assets, including the water supply system, sewer, streets, snow removal, street signs, vehicles, buildings, land, etc.
  • Parks and recreation department: (construction and maintenance of) public parks, common areas, parkways, publicly owned lands and so on. Also, operation of various recreation programs and facilities. This department often operates as a regional entity with its own tax authority and governmental structure.
  • Police
  • Fire department
  • Accounting / Finance: collects taxes owed by the municipality, incorporates human resources department for municipal workers,
  • Legal: handles all legal matters including writing municipal bonds, verifying the municipality is in compliance with state and federal laws and mandates, and responding to citizen lawsuits where the municipality is a named party. Being named in a lawsuit may mean the municipality is a defendant, plaintiff, jointly with another entity or just by itself. Typical legal actions include: someone falling on publicly-owned sidewalks suing the municipality for negligence in failing to make the sidewalk safe to walk on; a municipality annexing land; etc.
  • Transport (varies widely): If the municipality has a public bus or light rail service, this function may be handled by its own department or it may be folded into another of the above departments or a special-purpose authority may be established to administer services applicable to multiple municipalities.

SimCity Concepts and Objectives[edit]

Many of the concepts used in modern urban planning, as well as municipal government, have been carried into SimCity. The objective of SimCity, as the name of the game suggests, is to build and design a city, without specific goals to achieve (except in the scenarios, which typically require the player to achieve a certain population or bank balance in a given period of time). The player can mark land as being zoned as commercial, industrial, or residential, add buildings, change the tax rate, build a power grid, build transportation systems and many other actions, in order to enhance the city. Also, the player can face disasters: flooding, tornadoes, fires, riots, earthquakes, etc. Later disasters included lightning strikes, volcanoes, meteors and attack by extra-terrestrial craft. In the Nintendo and later versions one can also build rewards when they are given to them, like the mayor's mansion and the casino for gambling Sims.

Basic SimCity concepts[edit]

In SimCity, there are a number of real life City Planning and Municipal government concepts to learn:

  1. Population: How many Sims are in a city
  2. Simoleans: Your money. You spend this whenever you do something.
  3. Taxes: Simoleans taken from your Sims on a yearly basis to replenish your City's Simoleans
  4. Ordinances: Various laws that can be enacted/repealed at anytime. Some give you money ("Legalized Gambling" allows gambling, however, all casinos have to pay you), others take money. They also have different effects on your population, and will make some happy and others mad.
  5. Tile: The basic unit of measure in SimCity. Also refers to the isometric "squares" in the game.
  6. Zone: This is where Sims will build. The three main types are Residential, Commercial, and Industrial. Each Zone has different effects: placing Dense Industrial next to a Light Residential will probably get some Sims angry about the intense dust.
  7. Transportation: A tile that allows Sims to get from one place to another. They are obviously connected to each other. People will only build a certain amount of Tiles from a transportation tile.