Gamasutra posted an excellent interview with the game’s producer, Electronic Arts’ Rachel Bernstein about SimCity Societies. Topics arrange from where they got the idea, going external on the development, and why they didn’t include real life Brick and Mortar stores in the game. Below is a snippet:
Why did you get rid of zoning?
Rachel Bernstein: The concept of zoning, if you think about it, has to do with an inherent idea of progress. You start with something flat, and you say, “There, that area is going to be commercial,” and you can tell whether you’re being successful or not, and if it’s progressing and getting shinier and taller and more dense, or if it’s decaying and looking run-down — then, you’re doing bad. That has an idea of what good and bad is. It’s all on this spectrum — this continuum from small and flat or run down to tall and shiny and sparkly and dense is good.
In SimCity Societies, we wanted to make the creative range of which direction you can go with your city a lot broader than that. We’re not just interested in letting you make something that looks like Los Angeles again. You can, if you want to, and this city is a little bit like that, but I’ll show you some other cities as we go that don’t look at all like that, and are also successful.
Zoning implies that the game knows what’s successful and what’s not, and what’s good and what’s bad. But in this game, when you can be deciding to make very different kinds of communities or cities, and you can decide what kind of ruler you want to be, the game can’t inherently know. You’re choosing it, and the game is responding to it.