Cities XL

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Cities XL


The next generation of city-building?

What else is new? (cntd.)

Another thing you can do is juggle the negative consequences to your advantage. For example, you create a game equivalent of Beverly Hills. The residents all want their own cars, but where will they come from? Why from your Detroit-equivalent, of course! And besides your BevHills city, you can ship your Detroit-equivalent production all over the virtual world. That way you make a ton of game money while only polluting the heck out of one city instead of five self-sufficient cities. You can do something similar for your Happiness factor by building an entertainment megapolis along the lines of Las Vegas. Then have another city specialize in trash dumps, and send all the filth from Las Vegas there. One city will be incredibly happy, and while the other may not be, the trash trains rolling in from all over the world will certainly liven up the economy when you charge a fee for the service,

The map sections for CXL are somewhat larger than previous games in that a city gets dropped onto a gridless 10 km by 10 km (that's 6 miles by 6 miles for the metrically-disinclined) map section. That's 100-square km/36-square miles for you to squeeze in pretty much whatever comes to mind. City plots tend towards one predominant terrain type: mountains, plains, river valley, lakeside, etc. As in the Real World, certain resources tend to crop up on certain terrain, so keep that in mind.

To keep things spicy, Monte Cristo will be making a series of Gameplay Enhancement Modules (GEMs, for short) available. A GEM, most simply put, is like inserting a Tycoon game into one of your cities. The first one of these that MC has been showing off could be titled, Ski Resort Tycoon, and it's pretty well fleshed out. As if you didn't already have enough to keep you busy.

And the downside is...

Unfortunately, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. You will be able to buy the game and play it in the usual city-building game fashion. That is, in solitary confinement, with just you and your faithful PC. You'll even be able to go online and download additional content like new building construction sets for free. But if you want to enjoy the camaraderie of gawking at other players cities and palling around together at 2 a.m., it will cost you extra. Joining the MMO game will cost a monthly subscription fee: 5 euros in Europe and probably $10-15. That's actually somewhat less than what most MMO players pay, either as a regular subscription, or with the per game item fees charged on a fairly regular basis. Whatever the actual fee is, you'll definitely be getting your money's worth. Just the GEMs alone would be worth the price, but Monte Cristo will also be setting up some parallel forum servers where each player will be able to set up his own city-oriented blog. (That's right: a blog for each city.) That way you'll be able to "sell" your city's commodity production, work out trade agreements, ask and tell about construction techniques, evaluate the value and game impact of the various GEMs and assorted mods, etc.

Glass half Full

As it stands now, there are still many questions left unanswered for CXL. These online cities will be, for all intents and purposes, be running 24/7. Now, what happens if your city is NOT particularly efficient just yet? Can you put the city on HOLD until you fix it? What happens to the landscape of the virtual world when there is the inevitable large number of players that start something, get it half-finished, then drop out of the game? Will it be possible for a tight clique of players to conduct Economic havoc on one or more other players? How does geography factor into gameplay? Do actual distances count? All these questions address important issues in city-building games.

Monte Cristo has been working on this game since 2007 (shortly after City Life, when the project was entitled Cities Unlimited), and the development team is up to over 80 people. The title has been pushed back, but thats just so they can squeeze in some more gaming goodness. Regardless of potential MMO problems, the stand-alone game should be worth the investment.