Power, Politics and Planning
David Chess wrote a review on the SimCity 2000 book by Dargahi & Bremer called SimCity 2000: Power, Politics and Planning. Here it is:

SimCity 2000 is one of the best computer games ever written. Well, no, because it's not really a game at all: it's actually a toy. Or maybe a hobby. Or an artform. Something like that. SimCity 2000: Power Politics and Planning is a reasonably good gamebook for this wonderful whatever-it-is.

It's easy to write a lousy gamebook. Just put in everything that's in the manual, or that ought to be in the manual, described in painful detail, at least one sentence per button-click. Throw in lots of screen-shots of things the user has on the screen anyway, add a couple of easter eggs and/or cheats from the publisher's BBS or the FAQ or whatever. To make it thick, use two-inch decorative margins all around every page. Lavishly airbrushed covers, a title including a liberal sprinkling of words like "mastery", "mysteries", "secrets", and so on, and you're done. $19.95 at your local Mr. Software City.

"SimCity: P, P and P" avoids being a lousy gamebook because, while it does have many of these things to some degree, it also has other stuff. It has sixty pages of interviews with the creators of SC2K, the programmers, the composers of the music, the artists who did the graphics, and so on. It has the same lightness and wit as the SC2K manual; not surpising since Michael Bremer also wrote the manual. It has inside information on the simulation for those who want to squeeze every last bit out of it. It has twentyish pages of sample neat cities and their creators. And it tells you where on the Net to look for more stuff. This is all goodness.

It is not, of course, perfection. The first couple hundred pages will be almost entirely Old stuff to anyone who's read the manual or played with the program; the chapter on the Urban Renewal Kit, except for one small example, is the same. There are useful extras here and there, but finding them means wading through all the repetition. There are also noticable holes in the information on the simulation. For instance, we are never really told what the water model does , beyond blanket statements about limitations on the growth of unwatered areas. There are rumors on the Net that in fact it does nothing, apart from producing the occasional "Water Shortage Reported" message; it'd be nice to be able to confirm or refute this from SC2K:PPP, but the information there isn't concrete enough.

Also, even more than the game itself, the book concentrates on growth as a goal. There are comments here and there about other possible goals, and not all of the sample cities are merely huge-population, but the book offers little actual help to anyone persuing any other goals. For instance, the main non-growth-oriented indicators in the program, the Mayor's Approval Rating, the Citizen Surveys in the newspapers, and the occasional Spontaneous Parade in your Honor, are mentioned briefly or not at all. While we get some detail on where the number of beds in a simulated hospital is derived from, all we find out about the Mayor's Approval Rating (displayed in the Mayor's House) is that it is "read in from elsewhere in the simulation and displayed." Gee, thanks! There must be an underlying SimHappiness model underlying these indicators, but it's never mentioned. Given the pages devoted to the power model, the traffic model, the industrial model, and so on, this is disappointing.

I'm also ambivalent in general about the wide dissemination of the various SC2K cheats. I'm glad I know about them, of course, but I'm not sure about all those other folks! The typical city uploaded to your local BBS, or AOL, or whatever, is a charade. You download "Pete's Favorite City, six million residents and 97% Approval Rating", you look to see How He Did it, and of course how he did it is he cheated. Used the binary-edit cheat to get two billion dollars in the treasury, laid down all the infastructure, and then turned the tax rate down to zero for a century. That'll do it! But it's not very interesting, at least not to those of us who actually want to use the program as a simulation, rather than a sort of elaborate Etch-A-Sketch. I'd suggest that anyone who owns, or even just contributes to, a repository of SC2K games would be doing a Great Public Service by encouraging every poster to indicate quite clearly in each title whether the city was done via cheats (and is therefore interesting at most as a piece of artwork), or done cleanly (and therefore is of potential interest to others interested in building cheatless cities).

Overall, I highly recommend SimCity 2000: Power, Politics and Planning to any devoted SC2K junkies, and to even non-addicted players who don't have Net access. Both junkies and wired non-addicts will want to consult the various SC2K resources on the Net and the Web as well, since they will always have the latest rumors and gossip, and some things that didn't make the gamebook (the mega-cheat, for instance, is in the FAQ, but Dargahi and Bremer didn't wheedle it out of the programmers in time for the book). The FAQ and other SC2K information tend to move around a bit; a good Web starting point is of course http://www.maxis.com (look in the User Groups section first: lots of SC2K activity there). And the Maxis FTP site is ftp.maxis.com, in pub/maxis.

Note: Don't just pick up the first SC2K gamebook that you notice in Mr. Software City, assuming that it's this one: there are at least two SC2K gamebooks of the "real wide margins and no new content" variety, to be avoided at all costs.

SimCity 2000: Power, Politics and Planning, Revised Edition
Nick Dargahi
Michael Bremer
Prima Publishing / Secrets of the Games
Rocklin, CA
ISBN 0-7615-0075-8

This Web Page was created by Patrick Coston August 2, 1995, Last updated April 4, 2006