Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Metropolis Project

Before we begin, if you saw this post before with a different picture, you're not going crazy. There was a post like this, but we took it down, changed the picture, edited it, and put it back up.

Here at Two Way Roads, we celebrate (occasionally) open-source projects.

SimCity, as a franchise, has been exploited by EA repeatedly with recent hack jobs on the PC (SimCity Societies), Wii (SimCity Creator), and the iPhone (SimCity).

Unfortunately, SimCity 4 is the last "real" SimCity everyone uses. Despite mediocre reviews and the fact that sales weren't taking off from the initial release in 2003, fan-made add-ons have kept the series alive. Now you can make a fairly convincing looking city with brand-name restaurants and city landmarks. There's even curved roads and single-track railroads! And despite some amazing work, the game suffers from painful limitations (the biggest including the chunky tile-system, the fairly limited transit systems) which are hard-coded in the EXE.

A promising competitor surfaced in 2007 (shortly after SimCity Societies was shown) called Cities Unlimited, from Monte Cristo. Fans poured their heart into the forums, only to get Cities XL, a chunky knock-off of SimCity that relied on a faux MMO gimmick. This backfired dramatically, and now the fans, burned by EA's hack job and Cities XL, are fed up.

Enter The Metropolis Project. One of a few new open-source SimCity-esque projects, including the older OpenCity and the SC4D-sponsored CityMania. One of the first attempts by people to make a community-driven, open-source game, "Urbs Urbis" was killed circa 2008.

Why is the Metropolis Project different?

It's because The Metropolis Project is dedicated to saving posts from the Cities Unlimited boards, in which fans poured out their hearts into real suggestions. Unlike Monte Cristo, The Metropolis Project will genuinely look into all the suggestions.

With an attractive look, it cites other successful open source projects including Firefox and Ubuntu.

Unfortunately, despite the cool look and suggestions, everything breaks when it comes to reality. The FAQ breaks these things down.

They need pledges and donations to fund it, and if you don't like the final product and ask for a refund: too bad, the money is spent.

I like the idea of a "Firefox of SimCity games", but reality hits hard.

First off, it wasn't mentioned that both Firefox and Ubuntu were both financed by very wealthy foundations. The Ubuntu Foundation STARTED with $10 million and Mozilla Foundation started with $2 million. Two million seems a much lower number than Ubuntu, but two million is still way richer than the average TWR reader.

Furthermore, everyone has very different ideas of what a next-generation SimCity would be, and I'd hate to donate money to something that might not turn out good...or at all. But if everyone's a pessimist (or a fanatical optimist), it will come down to nothing but talk. It's kind of rude to say "if you don't like it, modify it yourself!" simply because everyone is not a programmer. We can't really teach ourselves programming in 21 days, so why try?

Thirdly, there's no base engine. It would save everyone time if a base engine was built to run simulation games (an open-source RollerCoaster Tycoon was stalled back in '08) and not waste everyone's time trying to actually design one.

If the game DID exist and would be open-source, it would become easy to make real expansion packs, not crazy hack mods that merely take advantage of bits of open code. It would also be easy to port. I predict that one of four things will happen.

1. One open-source project will take reign, and everything else uses their incomplete open-source projects to feed the master program. Bonus points will be awarded if one was backed by a millionaire.

2. Open source projects will die, but master hackers break into the SimCity 4 source code and rename it something else. Unfortunately, it's illegal.

3. Nothing will happen.

4. Cities XL would rise again, possibly as open-source. This may not happen for years, however.

I'd like to join The Metropolis Project's forums's promising, and I can finally pour out and develop my thoughts on what would make the greatest city simulator anywhere.

Photo Credit: ISA EXPO

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