SimCity Societies: idyllic to violent to complacent to that?

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The story of Amerikatown is the story of what makes SimCity Societies unique. Amerikatown began as a city hall at a crossroads, staffed by a handful of people from nearby apartments who drove to work every morning, stopped off at the grocery store on the way home, and then spent weekends at the baseball field. Where it went from there is unlike anything you’ll find in another city builder.

After the jump, I violently oppressed 20,000 people and all I got was this lousy monument?

Like many sessions with SimCity Societies, Amerikatown began at the trophy screen. What do I not have yet?, I ask, looking at the array of awards, most of which I haven’t earned yet. I’m like Daniel Plainview considering a map. Why don’t I own that?


The medals on the left are just for show. They accumulate as you earn them. But the trophies on the right are achievements with hidden rewards. They each unlock a building I can use in all my future cities. But a city can only earn a single trophy, so I can’t just build a megacity to score a whole mess of rewards. As my city develops, I have to decide whether to apply it to the lowly Sheriff Trophy when I qualify, or whether to keep going for the more ambitious Captain of Industry, Great Entertainer, or Network Knight. For me, this screen is the framework for SimCity Societies. It drives how I play, and what cities I make, and how long I play them.

Amerikatown is actually my fourth attempt at the Master Manipulator Trophy, which requires 20,000 citizens, 400 points of authority, and almost no one at the extremes of happiness or sadness. Basically, it requires a futuristic dystopia sculpted into impassive mediocrity by the iron fists of its secret police, by the soothing chemicals of its dosage facilities, and by the mind numbing regular presentations in its conditioning theaters. My previous attempts were cities named by numbers, sequentially from One Nine Eight Four. Get it? Each of those cities went bankrupt before I could implement any sort of dystopia larger than, say, Mayberry. How can I suppress freedom and happiness in the population of a sprawling metropolis when I can’t run a single town hall?

My problem has been trying to implement authority too soon. Authority buildings tend to have a high upkeep. Secret police don’t work cheap. But SimCity Societies doesn’t have a hard-and-fast figure for your income. The latest SimCity — the one that doesn’t work — shows your income at all times as a single figure, positive or negative. SimCity Societies has far more variables at play, such as the number of people who show up for a job, the moods that determine their effectiveness, and the tourists who may or may not spend money before leaving. You have to watch the trends. You have to let a weekday run and then make judgment calls about whether to expand, tweak, or just bide your time. You might even have to consider a graph like this:


So my first priority with Amerikatown — this will be true of almost any city you build — is to lay a solid economic foundation. The first stage of Amerikatown is a section of apartment flats with a general store, florist, and elementary school to keep them happy, and a town hall and two low-rise office buildings to employ them. Here’s how it looks:


Not very auspicious for a budding futuristic dystopia. But it’s got a positive income flow and a few extra points of each city value so I can react to any problems that arise. Need a fire station? Another school? A corner deli or baseball field? I can manage those things.

For the next stage in Amerikatown’s development, I’ve decided to base my economy on a textile factory. One of the unique selling points of a textile factory over other early industry is that it runs seven days a week. SimCity Societies has an ebb and flow involving day and night, as well as weekdays and weekends. Most cities have to build up a reserve of cash to punch through the weekend. But a textile factory doesn’t believe in Saturdays and Sundays. A textile factory believes only in making textiles. A textile factory is pure and committed to the cause of its fabrics. A textile factory also requires 20 points of productivity, which isn’t easy to come by in the early game. Unless you resort to slums. Slums provide productivity. They also spawn criminals. We’ll need policemen.

Furthermore, a textile factory is ugly. It reduces the appeal of nearby buildings. This means residents, who are already unhappy about living in slums, take a happiness hit. It means nearby venues are less effective. So I take care to build the factory on the other side of town, at the end of a stretch of road. I surround it with slums, a couple of high-rise state housing buildings to make sure there are enough people nearby (I don’t want anyone commuting across town to work here), and a nearby police station to spawn cops to keep the criminals in check. Furthermore, I put a police station on the stretch of road leading the nicer part of town.

Here’s my textile factory:


And here’s the neighborhood I’ve built around it:


What follows — stage two of Amerikatown — is unlike anything I’ve seen in a citybuilder. The strip between my textile factory neighborhood and the nice part of town is a fluctuating front line in a war between criminals and cops. With the crime indicators turned on, I can see icons for the criminals moseying down the strip, and cops surging out to meet them. If the front strays too close to my nice neighborhood, I can click the overtime button at a nearby police station to spawn extra cops for $500. It’s like an RTS, or a tower defense game. I drop another police station and watch the criminals fall back.

Meanwhile, in the streets around the textile factory and its slums, there are scenes like this:


One of the new features in the Destinations add-on is a set of policies you can enable, usually at a cost, or if you meet a certain prerequisite. I spend some of my authority to implement advanced police training, which makes my spawned cops more efficient and durable.


As the fighting rages on, I invest in more authority to drop more police stations, careful not to outstrip the income from my textile factory, which earns a hearty $8000 bonus every week from a special ability called Production Drive. This triggers regularly so long as I keep all the shifts filled. In other words, as long as the local happiness doesn’t dip so low that people skip work. However, one of the unforeseen problems is that everyone’s getting sick from the slums. My city doesn’t have enough knowledge to support hospitals and clinics, so I have to rely on less efficient departments of public health.

This stage of the game is where Amerikatown’s identity as a sprawling repressive dystopia starts to take shape. As I pour more points into authority to spawn more cops to control the criminals, I have more points to spend on the buildings I’ll need for stage three. I fold into the city all the apparatus of a repressive government. State amphitheaters and dosage facilities, each of which can trigger Mandatory Attendance special abilities to keep the population docile. A massive state cafeteria feeds the people. Cheap redistribution centers let them buy used clothing. Conditioning theatres reduce mood extremes and even trap hapless tourists until they’ve spent all their money. A couple of propaganda ministries and a massive ministry of thought provide me with extra authority to spend on extra oppression. A secret police HQ can spawn secret police from the tiny secret police kiosks I’ve scattered around town. The mighty panopticon prison facility will sweep any rogue elements off the streets. At this point, it’s a bit overkill. I’ve long since had this population clamped down, working their textile mill and now streaming every weekday morning into office buildings that line the once tumultuous strip of road from the old town to the textile factory. That strip of road has gotten fat with office buildings that pay for the upkeep of my government apparatus. All this marches apace, more authority, more repression, more income, working its way upwards to satisfy the requirement for the Master Manipulator Trophy, which requires not just accumulating 400 points of authority, but also spending it.

Soon my graphics palette shifts to show that I’ve created a city with a unique skew towards one of the values. The sky even changes. Oh, wait, maybe that’s from the cluster of coal plants powering my city.

Behold the grey/brown dawn of Amerikatown:


Eventually, I get a pop up window telling me I’ve qualified for a trophy. In my eagerness, I click accept. And then when I check to achievements screen to see what secret building I’ve unlocked, I discover that I haven’t earned the Master Manipulator Trophy at all. Instead, I’ve applied all my hard work to the measly Mayor Trophy rather than telling the pop-up window that I was holding out for Master Manipulator. For all my ruthless suppression of freedom, initiative, creativity, and joy, I got only a little monument that earns a small trickle of daily income. Here it is on the street where people can admire it as they go to work at the civil defense tower:


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