Interview with Karoliina Korppoo, lead designer of Cities: Skylines.
Cities Skylines has sold over 3.5 million copies. Considering the success of Cities Skylines and the intense interest in the launch of SimCity 2013, why do you think the city building genre has so few games?
Simulation games were until recently seen as slightly outdated and oldfashioned. Simulation, aside from city-builders, has usually been a niche market and not very interesting to the general public. I believe lots of city-builders will emerge is the next couple of years, but the mobile and console trend had previously made them almost obsolete. We have seen in the last few years a sort of “old school revival”, with many developers making games inspired by or based on old classics.
Both the SimCity series and Cities Skylines have been critiqued by players for flaws in their depth of simulation. Do you think we will have to wait until the advent of human level artificial intelligence before a city building game could have the simulation depth players want?
When players talk of simulation games, they very often bring realism into the discussion. Realism is important to any simulation game, in allowing the user to have an understanding of the consequences of their actions. Still, realism is usually not a very good direction for a game. Flight Simulators are ultra realistic, but have lost a lot of their game likeness in going for a 1 to 1 simulation of reality. In city-builders, the real building of a city is not very fun and takes a long time. When people pick up a city-builder game, they usually wish to be god-like beings ruling over the whole city, so that they can take actions which have consequences in the game simulation.
Often when a player asks for more realism or deeper simulation, what they are really talking about is more challenge, or that a certain game feature feels off. This is very valuable feedback, but more often than not is not actual lack of simulation, but rather an usability issue or something to do with balancing. It is very easy to think that if a simulation game feels “off”, it is because of the lack of realism or depth, but from a game developers perspective, we have to be really careful to make sure we understand what the players are really talking about. Making simulation more detailed can have its cost in the game being less fun.
There are technical limitations to the algorithms we use, and surely they could be improved to make the game world seem even more alive. Currently the level is enough for a very enticing simulation with realistic cities and believable citizens you can relate to.
Read the full interview at the source.