From The Ashes of SimCity: An Interview With Citybound Creator Anselm Eickhoff
I've always been a fan of the city-building genre. Being able to push through the frustrating work of zoning and building while keeping your pittance of a budget in check to create a self-sustaining city is an absolutely exhilarating experience. I have an entire shelf dedicated to Maxis game boxes that includes every version of Simcity ever released for PC.
Well, almost every version.
When it came out back in early 2013, EA's Simcity was a broken mess that was crippled by server issues and horrible design decisions at seemingly every turn. Many were furious, some gave up on Simcity altogether, but one man saw potential.
Taking elements from newest Simcity, German developer Anselm Eickhoff began developing Citybound. Even though the game isn't even in alpha, Citybound has already gained a following thanks to its innovative design and unique approach to the genre.
I recently had the chance to talk with Mr. Eickhoff about where Citybound started and what we can expect to see in the future.
WesleyG (WG) What inspired you to begin creating Citybound?
Anselm Eickhoff (AE): The main inspiration was the release of the new SimCity last year. It introduced some new ideas like agent-based simulation and freeform road networks to the series, I saw a lot of potential in them. Due to various (in my opinion misguided) design decisions and implementation shortcomings it failed to reach this potential.
This led me to think about how I would create a city game with these new ideas.
I let myself be inspired by the SimCity series and other games in the genre, but also developed my own vision from first principles.
As things started to become more concrete, I started to build technical prototypes. They gave me confidence that I would be able to master all the technical challenges that building a whole city game would entail.
This was also when I decided on an initial set of features (of the prototype) to go public with.
WG: What kind of elements do you hope to have in the final version of Citybound?
AE: Basically everything that you would expect from a city-building game:
Infrastructure construction, zoning, taxation and budgeting, public services, ordinances.
WG: What was it like to see Citybound become so popular in such a short time?
AE: It was surprising and overwhelming. My suspicion that fans of the genre craved for a "proper" modern city-building game was more than confirmed.
The power of the internet to connect content creators and consumers in a much more direct way than in the past was demonstrated once again.
I was incredibly flattered by the amount of trust people gave me, even though I barely had a concept and a very early prototype.
WG: What makes Citybound unique among other city building games like Simcity or Tropico?
AE: Although it will copy many game mechanics from existing city-building games, I think about each of them very carefully, and keep only its aspects that are proved to be working well. Everything else I will try to innovate on and even though most of these innovations will be small and incremental, the end result will probably be something very new.
Citybound will be very open and accessible for player modification.
In general, Citybound will offer much more fine grained control over all of the simulated structures and systems, while making sure that the game stays user-friendly and first and foremost, fun.
Most importantly, Citybound will be very open and accessible for player modification, which will make the development process much more democratic and will result in a much deeper, more customizable game with a longer life-span.
A good example for how well this can work is SimCity 4, which is still actively played and has a thriving mod community.
WG: Do you think you'll include some multiplayer elements to Citybound or will it be a strictly single player?
Citybound will first be developed as a single player game only, but it might get multiplayer elements later.
WG: Is money going to play a big part in Citybound or will it be more of a sandbox style game?
AE: For the main game mode budgeting will be a central challenge and will give rise to many difficult and interesting decisions.
There will, however, also be a more relaxed sandbox mode where money won't be an issue.
WG: What kind of games do you like to play? Any favorite titles?
AE: I like all kinds of games, some of the most influential for me personally are: Sim Ant, the Sim City series, A-Train III, The Incredible Machine 2, the Half-Life and Portal series, Braid, Minecraft.
Currently, I really enjoy Broforce, Luftrausers, Next Car Game and Kerbal Space Program.
WG: What are your main influences for Citybound?
AE: Obviously, the SimCity series and similar games like CitiesXL and Cities in Motion. A-Train III in particular, because it shows that even indirect control over a city (via providing of infrastructure) can be very fun and that a few elegant and focused game mechanics go a long way. Roller Coaster Tycoon I & II for a high level of detail, in-depth simulation and very good construction user interface.
WG: What building types can we expect to see in the final version of Citybound?
AE: All of them: shacks, one-family-houses, appartment buildings, small shops, malls, workshops, factories, office towers, residential high-rises, service buildings, monumental buildings, museums and other cultural buildings, train stations, airports, havens, etc.