SimCity: Tiny Maps and Tiny Zooms

SimCity logoSimCity has had quite the launch to be sure, ending with the resignation of EA’s CEO. Through all the drama, there’s an incredible game hiding in there. In fact, it’s a bit of a miracle that I escaped the mighty mining town of Woodville long enough to type up this article (just kidding, it’s actually running in the background).

The internet has a lot of complaints about SimCity, at various levels of validity. The UI hasn’t been one of them, and that’s because it’s pretty good. A favorite feature of mine is all the various data maps you can turn on. This puts an extra layer of data right on top of your city, no extra screen required. However, despite the small city size (a common complaint for sure), you still can’t actually see your whole city if you zoom out all the way, making all those sexy data maps a little less useful.

The data maps overlay in SimCityFirst let’s take a look at the data maps overlay. It’s a great way to get a visual representation of all kinds of things that are going on in your city. If there’s any complaint to be made here, it’s that it might take a second to figure out what some of these icons are. Like that little gear on the end of the second row? It means “industrial tech” but I only know that because I just looked it up. My only other complaint might be how this overlay lives in the extreme lower right corner of the screen, which means I usually accidentally scroll around the map trying to get at it. Thankfully that’s something I can adjust in the settings menu.

Anyway, the data maps are awesome because it gives me a lot of data without taking me into a menu or somewhere away from my city. So if I want to look at where the water table is before I plop my sewage output pipe, I can do that. Here’s a sample happiness map:

A happiness map in SimCity, zoomed all the way out

Super helpful stuff here with a minimum of UI. But here’s the problem. That screenshot above is fully zoomed out, and at that camera angle, I’m only seeing about 1/4 of my city. So to see the whole thing, I’ve got to get a super-low camera angle, something like this:

Happiness graph in SimCity, at a low camera angle to see more city

And even then I can’t see everything; there’s more buildings off to the left and the right that you’ve got to scroll around to see.

It’s a minor annoyance, but it’s a feature that should be able to give the user a quick view of some aspect of their city at a glance, and scrolling around is just a pain. It’s especially funny to me considering how big of a deal the internet is collectively making about the tiny city size. I would think the small cities would make it more feasible for your computer to render the whole city at once, but for whatever reason, it isn’t happening here.

There is a lot to talk about with the new SimCity…what do you think? What features do you think are outstanding? Or are you still trying to get on a server and stay there? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Leave a Reply