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Video: Building SimCity's sandbox

The fun in sandbox games comes from discovering how the mechanics work, says Maxis' Dan Moskowitz, who shares lessons learned from building SimCity, in this free GDC 2013 video.

Game Developer, Staff

May 31, 2013

2 Min Read

Courtesy of the GDC Vault, this free GDC 2013 video sees Maxis' Dan Moskowitz defining what a sandbox game is and sharing lessons learned from building the team's latest sandbox title, SimCity. Moskowitz defines sandbox games as "goal-free exploration games, where fun is derived from discovering how the game mechanics work." Here, Moskowitz explores how Maxis discovered what worked in its own sandbox using the Glassbox simulation engine, with lessons including determining granularity, finding and re-using patterns that work, figuring out how to scale, and exploring mechanics "breadth first". Session Name: Exploring SimCity: A Conscious Process of Discovery Speaker(s): Dan Moskowitz Company Name(s): Maxis / Electronic Arts Track / Format: Programming Overview: At their core, Maxis games are tools that let players delight in their own discoveries of how a system works. As developers of sandbox-style games, we have the unique challenge of simultaneously creating an underlying system and then discovering the fun hidden inside, before we can package it up and present it to players. In this session, Dan will outline a methodology for building sandbox games, giving specific examples from SimCity's simulation, player tools, and feedback mechanisms. He'll also outline advantages and drawbacks to this type of "discovery-based" methodology.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent GDC events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers. Those who purchased All Access passes to events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC China already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscriptions via a GDC Vault inquiry form. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can find out more here. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins. Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more new content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from other events like GDC China and GDC 2013. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS. Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Tech.

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