Hello, and welcome to the first edition of The New Cities Tribune: the periodical where we lay bare the development process, offer our thoughts on game design, and open the floor to you, our most invaluable and esteemed community.
Today we’ll be talking about our favorite city builders, and just what it is about them that resonates with us. So kick back, relax, and join us on this little journey, won’t you?
My humble community in New Cities. Pay no attention to the perilous condition of my treasury…
There’s something magical about the city builder. The modern gaming landscape is increasingly saturated with competitive games, flush with adrenaline and high-octane thrills as you pit your wits and reflexes against those of other human opponents. Not to knock such games—I enjoy Destiny 2’s Crucible and Counter-Strike as much as the next red-blooded gamer—but it’s nice to remember from time to time that our favorite hobby has so many disparate and varied facets that keep it fresh and lively. There are games that invigorate, as well as games that relax and allow one to unwind at the end of the day. City builders have set the standard since the early days when it comes to cognitive flow, where we lose all track of time accomplishing goal after goal, some presented by the game but most of which we set for ourselves. Wrapped up in the process—that is, until we glance at the clock and wonder where the hours went.
A screenshot from Foundation by Polymorph Games, another fine indie city builder currently in Early Access
Instead of demanding that we destroy, city builders invite us to create. To solve problems, manage resources, and build new cities. I won’t go so far as to say that these experiences are rare, but they’re not something you see triple-A development studios focusing on anymore. It falls to us, the indie developers, to make the sort of games and experiences we really want to see. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, it’s what you’re looking for too.
And that brings us back to the question poised at the beginning: what is it about city builders that really resonates with us?
As the late, great Bob Ross says about painting: “You have unlimited freedom on this canvas.” And I believe that’s true of certain games as well—you’re given a canvas, and the developer provides all the tools and colors you need to paint a beautiful picture. A portrait of life. And perhaps there’s no portrait so grand or sonderous as the city, the hub of humanity since ages past. When we abandoned nomadic existence in favor of banding together into communities, cities soon followed, laying the foundation for both scientific endeavors and cultural growth. Humankind condensed into cities across the globe like raindrops in a cloud, each person adding color or vibrance to the glow of these beacons of civilization.
There’s nothing quite so wistful or sonderous as looking out over a city at night
Cities represent a microcosm of the human experience, a vertical slice-of-life in which we live, work, and play. They can be as good or as bad as the people who run them—so when given the opportunity, we jump at the chance to prove ourselves to be good stewards of our canvases. We relish the opportunity to manage budgets, please our citizens with strong educational systems, construct beautification projects like parks and plazas, and watch the digital people under our care grow and thrive. There’s a nurturing soul within us all, and there are no better places to practice those instincts than simulation games where you’re asked to create instead of destroy. To build up instead of tear down. And every moment we spend racking our brains for solutions to traffic congestion or finding ways to increase revenue without raising taxes encourages such outside-the-box problem solving in our own lives. It provides a brain exercise that you can’t help but feel enriched by.
It’s important to pull back from the world once in a while, recharge your batteries, and paint on your canvas—using whatever medium you find most satisfying.
So, now it’s time we heard from you—via Discord, Reddit, or Twitter, pick your favorite platform and sound off. What’s your favorite city builder, and why? What about it ignites that spark of satisfaction and joy within you? What would you suggest we could do to bring that spark to life in New Cities? While we can’t promise you that every suggestion will make it into the game, rest assured that we are listening. We want to make sure you have the colors and the canvas you need to paint something truly beautiful.
Until next time, happy building.