However, the heart beating beneath the surface of the re-imagined SimCity is the new GlassBox engine. “It’s a new simulation engine that was developed here at Maxis to support agent-based simulation,” Lead Producer Kip Katsarelis told “It’s not necessarily related to cities, it’s a general engine; we’ve kept the code separate from SimCity. It lets you simulate very simple objects that, when composed together, can do very complex things.”

“The genesis of GlassBox goes all the way back to SimCity 4,” added Creative Director Ocean Quigley, “when [engineer] Andrew Willmott and I imagined what the ultimate simulator might look like. At the time, computers weren’t powerful enough for us to implement that at any reasonable scale, so our ideas had to lie fallow until we finished Spore.”

The final product is an engine that’s both powerful and general. Where earlier SimCity games performed all the background calculations involved in running the player’s city, then translated them into a visual representation, GlassBox allows Maxis to effectively do the opposite with the new game.