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Cities XL - Taking MMOG in a new direction

August 24, 2009

Cities XL - Taking MMOG in a new direction
By Ted Brockwood, Calico Media

Bringing new social elements into the space

When most gamers think of a massively-multiplayer online game (MMOG), their thoughts immediately turn to games like World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online and other fantasy games. If pressed, they might recall some of the Korean first-person-shooter MMO’s, or even some of the recent racing MMO’s, but you would never expect anyone to imagine a city-building MMO. That’s exactly what Monte Cristo is betting on, and hoping that their upcoming game, Cities XL, will fill that gap in the genre and prove once and for all that MMO is not just synonymous with “MMORPG.”

Cities XL is, at its core, a city building game. Players gather resources while building and managing their burgeoning metropolises. Choosing the best building and business types for different areas of town, designing transportation for citizens and keeping the city neat and clean are the some of these key city-building elements. Cities XL, however, is aimed at being more than just another game in the genre – as the developers have created social elements not seen in the genre before.

The first step in designing a “social” game or MMO is to give players a reason to play together. In Cities XL’s online mode, dubbed “The Planet Offer," developer and publisher Monte Cristo is offering a variety of incentives to players. At its most basic, Cities XL encourages players to share resources. By sharing resources, a player who needs some help getting rid of his city’s waste, can trade his excess resource of another type, say – electricity, for some garbage hauling provided by the other player. This ensures a keen balance of resources within the game, and creates a more realistic value for resources than just having the A.I. automatically price resources. This also allows players to specialize if they like – if a player wants to focus on generating one resource, they can, so long as their resource is valuable enough to garner them enough trades with other players to earn them the other resources they need.

Another social aspect of Cities XL is the “Megastructures.” Players will, at various times, earn access to Megastructures, which can be famous buildings such as the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower, and when completed, earn more prestige for the player and bring in additional income/resources (via tourism for example) to the player’s city. However, a Megastructure is a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources that no one player is likely to have. Thus, players can recruit others in the online game to help complete the Megastructures, in a method that will likely be familiar to those who enjoy “crafting” in MMORPGs.

CITIES XL Screenshot

While most city-builders don’t allow for direct player interaction, Cities XL will offer 3D chat. Players appear as customized 3D avatars, which they control. These avatars will chat and act in real-time, giving the player a “face” in the game and allow for in-game trading.

Finally, there’s the built-in social network for Cities XL, which offers a mix of management tools and “bragging rights.” By visiting a custom web site for their cities, players may display and share images, videos and stories (via blogs) about their creations. Being a fully fledged social network, the site will also allow players to contact one another via messaging, and manage resource trades.

Monte Cristo calls Cities XL a “next-generation” city-builder, and with social elements like chat, crafting, online play and a built-in social network, it’s hard not to agree.
 

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