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How Do You Put the Sim in SimCity?

June 22, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next
 

Ocean Quigley has been at Maxis since 1995. In that time, he's been an artist and art director, and now serves as creative director on the company's newest SimCity title -- which is due to be released next year, simply under the title SimCity.

This game marks a new horizon for the series: For the first time, computing power has increased to the point where the simulation can be built from the ground up, with individual simulation elements (Sim citizens, buildings, vehicles) able to react to one another to produce a full city simulation. Previous games in the series faked granular detail.

As an artist, Quigley wants the game to visually portray information to the player as much as possible -- to instantly represent decisions in the world itself, rather than forcing the player to look at charts, graphs, and menus.

Quigley explains the work he and others at Maxis have done to achieve this, and how the team makes creative decisions that impact not only the simulation, but also bring forth satisfying decisions for players and also accurately reflect the ways in which these systems interact in the real world.

You've talked about tilt-shift as a visual trademark for the new game, and how aesthetics can convey information. How important is it that the aesthetic choices you make in the game also convey information to the player?

Ocean Quigley: Let me answer that a couple different ways. One answer is that in previous games like SimCity 4, for example, we had an aesthetic of piled-on detail, without necessarily giving it meaning or giving it context. So, for this SimCity, basically, the simulation is sophisticated enough and complex enough that if we don't take every moment, if we don't take every opportunity to tell the player what's going on in their city, then, basically, the art's not doing its job. The simulation would be difficult to parse.

So, I've got a big slide, aesthetic commandment for all the visuals in the game: that if we can assign meaning to something, then we assign meaning to it. We really try not to put anything in the game at all that doesn't serve as a UI function to tell the player what's going on in their world.

So, you look at it and you think, "This is a city." You're looking at a city, you're looking at architecture, you're looking at buildings, and all that is true but what you're really doing is you're looking at UI that's telling you the state of the simulation. The UI is just aesthetically stylized to look like the city.

To quickly touch on this idea of meaning, is all the information you convey via the game just about the state of the world? In other words, is all the meaning that comes -- other shades of meaning -- does that all come from the player?

OQ: So, of course the player is going to be projecting their own story and their own imagination on it. I don't know enough about what the player is thinking to anticipate that. All I can do with integrity, or all I can do with legitimacy, is faithfully represent the state of the world at any given moment.

So, for example, if you see a car parked in front of a building, it's because there's somebody inside that building. And if there wasn't anybody inside that building, the car wouldn't be there. Or if the lights are on in the building, it means that the power is on, and that there's somebody inside that building. Or if you see green terrain, it's because that terrain is watered. Or if you see a house with graffiti on it, it's because a crime has occurred there, and so forth. Right?

So, what I've got to drive the meaning in the game is the actions, the behavior, the state of the simulation. That's what has to come out in the surface.

Of course, there are a lot of choices about what the simulator is doing that are happening at a deeper level, and there are aesthetics to that as well. But assuming you're primarily talking about the visual aesthetics, they're there to communicate to a player the state of the world that they're creating.

Is there such a thing as a simulation aesthetic, or an aesthetic of simulation?

OQ: Yeah, yeah. Of course. It's really about the cause-and-effect relationships between things and how you want to bind it together, those causes and effects.

So, for example, we could have people in a house get sick for no reason. They go to the hospital and get cured, but that's kind of unsatisfying. You'd rather bind the fact that they got sick to something that is in principle, and hopefully in practice, understandable and parse-able by the player, right?

If they got sick, maybe they got sick because a patient zero came into the city and carried a disease with them. Or maybe they got sick because they drank polluted water. Or maybe they got sick because they lived downwind from the toxic chemicals of an industrial plant.

And so the simulation aesthetic is about drawing the cause-and-effect relationships between things and giving them integrity the player can understand, and not just doing things as smoke-and-mirrors, but having it be like a watch, where all the gears visibly move the other gears forward and the whole thing has got an integrity -- almost a mechanical integrity of all the pieces stacking into each other and moving each other in a way that the player can understand.

And then, of course, it's up to you as the designer of the game to figure out how you want to make those relationships work. You want to have crime be a function of education, or lack of education, or crime be a function of employment, or do you want crime to be a function of pollution of the environment, do you want crime to be intrinsic to people, do you want tie crime to class? Those are all the sorts of simulation aesthetic decisions that you make as a designer of a simulation.

And then you try to decide if it makes sense, if it has coherence and integrity, and is it something I can express to the player? And so that's kind of what simulation aesthetics is. It's the art's job to express that to the player. Of course, there's a feedback loop there, because, if you want to express something that's so abstract that you can't surface to the player, then there's really not a whole lot of point to do it. So the aesthetics that you make in the simulation are constrained, let's say, and not entirely bound, but constrained, by what you can transparently present to the player.


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Comments


Michael Wenk
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I may be misreading this, but I'm now worried that the new SimCity game will be overly complicated. I don't mind realism, but the extra work that implies usually takes quite a bit of the fun out of it.

Michael Joseph
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I didn't read anything here that suggested the game would be overly complicated _to play_. The test team might have lots of headaches verifying behavior but otherwise for the end user it sounds like the simulation will be very intuitive with so much attention dedicated to the aethestics communicating to the user the state of the simulation with as much precision as possible.

Ron Dippold
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What I got from this (and other articles) is that it's as complicated as you want it to be. If you really want to you can drill down and see what every single Sim is doing, but you probably won't.

It should make it less complicated because everything is visible at a glance. A huge example is that traffic you see on the road is the actual traffic on the road - unlike previous games where you could see no traffic, traffic, and maybe one or two intermediate steps. Pollution and crime will be instantly visible. It should lead to a lot less gazing at graphs. If you want to!

It should also make cause and effect much clearer. I especially like the idea that, for example, sick people don't just randomly spring into existence, but the sims actually infect each other by contact or people get sick from things like pollution.

In theory, if they pull this off, it means that everything is much more transparent and you can focus on policy rather than minutiae.

Johnathon Swift
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There's a difference between "complicated" and "obtuse" that most gamers and game developers have missed. "The player can't figure this out, it must be too complicated!" But most of the time it's quite simple, they've just not told the player it's there, or hidden it behind a stupid UI.

The entire interview is about how Sim City seems to be trying the opposite of that. There are a lot of things, but they're all there in front of you, and everything you see is part of showing you how things are working and why.

"Oh, so these cars appear at these houses in the morning and go to these factories. Which means these people work at these factories!" Easy right? In other words its "complicated" but obvious what's going on if you just look.

Whereas most other games today have been ripped of every feature but murder not because those things were bad, but because they weren't presented as obviously as "murder this dude with this gun" and so people didn't know what to do with them.

Joshua Darlington
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I am so geeked on this! I wish pervasive simulation of causal chain was part of all RPG worlds, it would make player choices much more engaging.

Michael Joseph
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haha. yeah. There is an entire virtual city.... running on my PC! How cool is that?

Maxis just needs to make sure the game hits runtime performance goals. I cannot adequately manage New Seattle at 5 frames per second! :p

Gerald Belman
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People like to think of games as being separate from politics but frankly that seems a little bit disingenuous to me. When you are writing a story or making a simulation you have to make predictions and create models and come up with reasonable responses and emotions for people. This is inevitably tied to the author's/designer's politics. If you believe that the education and health of people has no effect on their propensity to commit crime, then you are going to come up with a different simulation than someone who does in fact think this is the case.

You can tell he was prepared for this question because he answered it in the most neutral way possible. But the fact of the matter is that the game assumes that global warming exists and is significantly contributed to by humankind's burning of fossil fuels. So there is really no way to stay neutral on the subject. The fact of the matter is that a large number of conservatives don't accept this idea.

In fact the entire game of Spore seems to accept the theory of evolution(even if in the game it is guided by the player - or God which is not something I would ever dispute with someone).

Politics finds it's way into any simulation. People like to think of science as being separate from politics but the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of scientists are democrats or liberal independents.

"The Democratic Party also has strong support among scientists, with 55% identifying as Democrats, 32% as Independents, and 6% as Republicans and 52% identifying as liberal, 35% as moderate, and 9% as conservative." [26]

http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-4-scientists-polit
ics-and-religion/

Now granted, alot of scientists are paid by the government - but c'mon - use your feelings Anakin. Something's not right here.

Michael Joseph
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"There are lots of other arguments that you could make about what causes crime, and so our decision that crime is caused by a combination of unemployment and poor education is ultimately a political assertion, right? But we're making it because the player can do something about it and because it's at least parse-able. It at least makes sense.

But beyond that we are not attempting to encode our ideology into the game and force people to believe what we want them to believe in order to succeed at it."
---

I don't see anything disingenuous or evasive about his response there. Seems like an open and honest response and if that comes across as somehow "diplomatic" then so be it I guess. In the heightened political climate of our times I think we can find a way to make everything political. If someone is trying to build a model using the best available research and data and some group doesn't like the results or implications of that research, then that just cannot be helped. That doesn't make the model inherently political imo.

Beyond that, obviously everything people create is influenced by who they are and what they know (or think they know) and believe to be true. That is an inescapable reality. We don't let the fact that we don't know everything stop us from drawing conclusions, making decisions and taking action.

Joshua Darlington
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Jacob Germany
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@Gerald What does the data about scientists and political affiliation imply, to you? That scientists choose to be liberal, liberals go into science, or something else?


@Joshua You didn't buy Spore because of which problem? That it supports evolution? Or that it supports Intelligent Design?

Cause, here's the thing, you might want to give it a try someday. Cause it supports neither. You just go around attaching legs and mouths to create your own 3D model. It really doesn't speak to much of any belief system. And it was a pretty fun game, all in all.

Gerald Belman
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@Jacob

If nearly all people who call themselves scientists (which means they at least superficially believe in the study the natural world and base their conclusions off of actual evidence and the scientific method) are democrats or liberal independents. IDK Jacob - it should be pretty obvious to you what that means.

But what I am saying is very simple. It is not complicated at all. So I will just spell it out for you.

And it is the same thing that Steven Colbert once said.

"Reality has a strong liberal bias".

What would a Republican Simcity look like? Well, taxes would pretty much always be bad. Christian religion would pretty much always be a force for good. Islam and any other religion would be bad.

You would be better off not directly building public schools. You would do better to rely on the "free market" to educate people to have basic reading skills. Same goes for colleges.

"Scientists" and "College Professors" would promote civil disobedience in a republican SimCity as well I would think.

As I said before, I am a liberal, so I can only guess what a Republican Simcity would look like. But I would be very interested in seeing it done by someone who is actually a republican because I think that it might help alot of republicans to rethink their understanding of the world.

If science is the pursuit of truth, and the truth will set you free, then why aren't there more republicans who call themselves scientists?

Jacob Germany
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@Gerald Ah, see, I couldn't tell if you were saying that, or saying that if scientists are mostly Democrats, than science is biased towards Democratic politics. I missed where you stated you were a liberal.

And, I agree that a SimCity made by a Republican politician would look... well, very much like you described.

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Jacob Germany
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I can pretty reasonably say I have no idea what you're talking about, at this point. The Spore you're describing isn't the Spore I played.

I played a race which was carnivorous, aggressive, and killed everything in its path. And I played a race that ate only vegetables, fruits, and made friends with everyone playing music all along the way. It eventually roamed the universe settling uncivilized planets until I got bored and started over.

As for the evolution, there wasn't any, apart from the "Cell" stage heading over to the "Animal" stage. Even then, you could go over to some planet and just create/spontaneously evolve/whatever some creature, sidestepping evolution pretty clearly.

Again, it was just a game. I actually wish evolution were far more a part of it, but then it would've lacked that artistic bent.

And concerning "irreducible complexity", I'm not quite sure what you're getting at, because Spore was far too game-y to speak to evolution or intelligent design on a level of functionality or natural progression. You just plop on arms and plop on some eyes. I think you might be reading more into it than should or even can be read into a game that was a do-it-yourself 3D modeler.

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Gerald Belman
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No No, I am not saying he was being disengenuous. He was quite diplomatic. But other people on these forums and in the game design community in general want to seperate politics from games completely.

I understand he had to be diplomatic. I would be too. When you have a business - you don't want to alienate potential customers. But anyone with half a brain should see the "overt politics" in the game's mechanics and simulation assumptions.

So, game designers/marketers I can understand - but bloggers and game aficionados should understand the overt politics that exist in many games.

Michael Joseph
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My mistake. You know it would be interesting if in Sim City you could configure the simulation's underlying assumptions about cause and effect. Then they can advertise their simulation as being "fair and balanced." lol

Gerald Belman
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That's actually a really good idea. Maybe they should make a republican/conservative mod of the game. Although I think you would need to get someone who is actually a republican/conservative. I would actually be really interested in seeing a conservative version of SimCity. Although I think you would have to find someone who is actually a republican/conservative to do it. If someone like me did it - well, I would not be able to help making it satirical - like Stephen Colbert.

Joshua Darlington
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Are you suggesting that the game might not appeal to conservatives? I don't know. Didn't Herman Cain offer hints that he was a big fan of Gov simulation games? I would be surprised if they didn't design the game to be enjoyed by both of the major political clusters. It seems like this sort of simulation would appeal to people who are already interested in politics.

Bart Stewart
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Simulation of people in large numbers pretty much demands political judgements -- politics are what people en masse do. Because choices and outcomes are the heart of gameplay, someone designing a mass simulation necessarily has to encode political beliefs.

But whose beliefs? More pointedly, what game-mechanic reason requires that only one particular set of social, economic, and foreign policy beliefs can be encoded into a large-scale sim game? Why hardcode elements of any single political belief system when there's evidence that you don't have to?

While it wasn't precisely a sim game, I thought Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri handled politics brilliantly. SMAC's social settings imposed various socioeconomic benefits and penalties defined by its designers. For example, the Free Markets social policy had the single biggest penalty of any policy -- that was a simulation choice by the designers, which reflected a particular political worldview.

What made SMAC interesting and relevant to Maxis's Sim City is that SMAC was built to read in from external files the values defining each social policy. If someone disagreed (as I did) with the encoded definitions of any of SMAC's social (i. e., political) policies, then by editing the input files they could change the parameters of the simulation.

A good designer editing those files would also take care that any changes did not unbalance the challenge level of the game as a game. But by design, anyone playing SMAC had the power to alter the political biases behind the default rules of the simulation part of the game.

That is respect.

Today a developer might (as the Civ IV team did) store those parameters as XML rather than flat files, but the basic idea is still available to anyone, including the designers of the latest Sim City. If you're truly serious about not imposing elements of a particular political belief system on the people who buy your simulation game -- especially when you know that many of those people will see the world differently from you and from each other, that they can cite their own data and studies and philosophies and experiences to back up their belief system, and that their money spends exactly the same as anyone else's -- then why wouldn't you explicitly design your game so that players can easily try out alternate rules of reality?

For a relatively small hit in design, development, and testing costs to expose parameters, you gain the benefit of not unnecessarily irritating customers, instead demonstrating to them that you know how to put good gameplay over personal political beliefs. In fact, you probably score some of those people as long-term customers precisely because your design tells them that you respect different beliefs even when you don't agree with them.

That seems like good design and good business to me. Here's hoping Sim City is easily moddable.

Jacob Germany
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I'm confused by the definition of "politics" in these comments. A political decision in a game would be what the player *should* do, not nearly so often what happens based on some event or decision.

Using a previously cited example, a game claiming a player *should* adopt Free Markets would be political, while Alpha Centauri's representation of Free Markets as one of many options involving detrimental ecological impact (-6 eco, if I remember correctly?) is less a "perspective" and more an acknowledged casualty of a lack of regulation.

Certainly, a designers viewpoint could create some cause and effect that is heavily biased, but simply basing game mechanics on humanity's understanding of the known world is hardly "political". The concept of global warming wouldn't be a political insertion into a game, but simply a fact of the world as best we understand it, and we understand it to a decent degree on that subject.

So, I think my point is that I see ethical problems in catering to falsehoods in the name of "balance", let alone profit. Certainly, a game generally shouldn't support one of a few equitable but opposing perspectives, but neither should designers intentionally ignore educational and social benefits that games might offer for the sake of maximizing profits or catering to political headwinds of the day.

We run the risk of not only ignoring social responsibilities (e.g. educational prospects concerning global warming), but becoming less of timeless art and more of an outmoded snapshot of a more primitive world perspective (e.g. entertainers in black-face).

Gerald Belman
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"The concept of global warming wouldn't be a political insertion into a game, but simply a fact of the world as best we understand it, and we understand it to a decent degree on that subject."

The problem is Jacob, The reason republicans and democrats disagree on so much is because they have different understandings of the world. "the world as we understand it" is relative to what political party you ascribe to. Politics is not just about morals or what is "right". Because both parties are trying to do what they think is right. Unfortuately for many republicans, they think poor people are bad, lazy, beggars. Or they think people who aren't christian are immoral. But politics is also about scientifically what are the best policies to have in place in our society, that will operate under the conditions of the natural world to improve the country's well-being (and thereby hopefully its people as well).

Jacob Germany
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"The problem is Jacob, The reason republicans and democrats disagree on so much is because they have different understandings of the world. "the world as we understand it" is relative to what political party you ascribe to. "

That's only true if you listen to those guys who make careers convincing you they're right, as opposed to the guys who make careers finding out what's right. If you take away the politicians and 24-hour news channel talking heads, the only ones talking about global warming are the people who study it, who have data telling them what's up, and who say "Um, everyone, we're in a bit of a pickle". When I say "the world as we understand it", I mean "we" as in humanity as a whole, rather than isolated (if large) groups who contradict facts, data, and experts because people on TV told them it was true.

I'm going at the assumption that game designers should be researching, with real research, aspects of their games they want accurate. Physics equations if they want Earth physics, social statistics if they want a social simulation, research on psychological effects if you were making a game about individuals using non-lethal means of goal completion, etc. Rather than just typing randomly at keyboards based off of a book they read once or a news segment they saw. Just, you know, assuming (maybe wrongly) that there's some professional ethics going on in this field.


"Because both parties are trying to do what they think is right."
"But politics is also about scientifically what are the best policies to have in place in our society"

Both parties do what they think they *should* do, but this doesn't meant they have used science, ethics, logic, or any other such thing to make that decision. It doesn't even mean it's what the politicians themselves believe, if they think they can't get away with platforming on their own ideologies.

Global warming is a pretty solid example, as all data shows that we are in serious trouble in the future, ecologically, economically, and everything else. But one side says "Let's take short-term losses for long-term gain" and the other side says long-term losses for short-term gain. Politics is choosing which side, and making your side sound better than the alternative to garner the votes.

Bart Stewart
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You guys do realize that the examples you're giving of what you think conservatives believe would be unrecognizable to an actual conservative, right? ;)

But those are details. My point is larger; it's that excluding widely-held public policy viewpoints you don't agree with -- whatever they are -- from a simulation is putting personal politics over good gameplay.

Here's what I mean. I'm working on a personal game (which is unlikely ever to go commercial) that lets players choose technologies and concepts for a civilization. I personally believe that communism was and is a murderously evil form of human organization... but it's one of several choices that players can make in the game. Including communism as a valid play option is not an endorsement of that political belief system, and excluding it would not give me +1 to ethics. It's in there, along with other systems, because a simulation of how people can organize themselves is more accurate and thus more enjoyable with it than without it.

Of course the gameplay consequences of choosing any available organizational form need to conform to observable reality, and that's subject to disagreement. So I plan to make those consequences user-editable (on the off-chance that anyone ever plays this thing) so that my biases aren't hard-coded.

Again: in a simulation game, it's good to try to design belief-based gameplay systems in a way that's fair to those who hold those beliefs. Most players will be fine with that. But for those who aren't, it's also good to give them a way to set simulation parameters that make the game they're paying for more enjoyable.

Bearing in mind that there are always some practical limits on how far you can accommodate people, and how parameterized you can make some parts of a simulation, "let the player change your assumptions" still seems like a reasonable design pattern to me. Is there some reason why that might be bad design or ethically questionable in a game that simulates broad areas of social and economic policy?

One other thing: good job to Christian for asking the question that sparked this discussion. Not everything has to go political (as too much on Gamasutra has these days IMO). But simulating the government of a city is an area where politics would naturally occur. Asking whether the personal politics of people at Maxis would tilt the gameplay of Sim City was good gaming journalism.

Gerald Belman
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@Jacob

Let's stick with global warming since it seems we both agree on the scientific evidence on that subject.

"Global warming is a pretty solid example, as all data shows that we are in serious trouble in the future, ecologically, economically, and everything else. But one side says "Let's take short-term losses for long-term gain" and the other side says long-term losses for short-term gain. Politics is choosing which side, and making your side sound better than the alternative to garner the votes."

Republicans are not just saying let's take "long-term losses for short-term gain". They are saying there are no long term losses or they are saying those long term losses are not man-made or man-contributed.

As the president(Obama) once emphatically told republicans during a state of the union address - "you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts".

So you see, agreeing on the facts (or as I like to call it, the scientific evidence) is a huge problem in politics and plays a large part in the reason our political system is so contentous.

It seems like you are understanding politics as specifically definition 1b. But it is also defined more generally as 1a - the art or science of governing a society(hopefully effectively).

Definition of POLITICS
1a : the art or science of government b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
2: political actions, practices, or policies
3a : political affairs or business; especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government) b : political life especially as a principal activity or profession c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices
4: the political opinions or sympathies of a person
5a : the total complex of relations between people living in society b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view

@Bart
"I personally believe that communism was and is a murderously evil form of human organization"

It depends what you mean by communism. A lot of american conservatives consider communism to be a form of government, when it is actually an economic organization. That is to say, all assets are owned or controlled by the government under communism.
But what about China? China(I think we can both agree) is a dictatorship. That is to say they don't have real elections. But most of the companies in China are privately owned. In fact, McDonalds and Foxconn operate quite profitably in China. So is China really communist? or is it actually just a capitalistic dictatorship?
So is it possible to have a communist democracy?

So, (sorry for the length) , I would agree that a dictatorship (whether communist or capitalistic) is evil under any reasonable circumstances(barring end of the world or alien invasion scenarios).

A communist democracy would just be an inefficient way to organize your economy. I would not necessarily call it evil. Capitalism is an extremely efficient way to organize your economy. It is SCIENTIFICALLY more efficient based on historical evidence. That's why democrats such as myself like it.

So in a SimCity/Civ type game, I would consider capitalism a sort of upgrade that you have to buy or possibly gain somehow through the game's mechanics.

Jacob Germany
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@Bart Yes, I fully realize that Republicans would not and do not phrase their beliefs as I did. However, I phrased it in such a way as to be the most intellectually honest.

As for your example, you're still discussing how you wouldn't want to tell a player what they *should* do. So, in doing so, giving them the option of communism, capitalism, socialism, or other options would be reasonable. However, saying, for example, that strict capitalism would lead to greater adverse ecological effects compared to other governmental/economic models wouldn't be politics. It's just fact. Less regulation over private entities that harm the environment will never be better ecologically than more regulation. Political perspectives invading game design would be some bias which cannot be fairly researched by a dominant opinion of that respective field.

So, I think it's fair for you to put in multiple government types and have advantages and disadvantages, and it's of course going to sway one way or another because of your perspective. But there's a problem when a designer hits the line of ignoring fact for the sake of "concern" for the "opinions" of those who ignore reality as best we can understand it.

@Gerald "Republicans are not just saying let's take "long-term losses for short-term gain". They are saying there are no long term losses or they are saying those long term losses are not man-made or man-contributed."

I realize what they're *saying*. However, this is their mindset, nonetheless. I am under no illusion that what politicians say to their constituents and what they believe are two separate things.

Science overwhelmingly shows that yes, there will be effects, and yes, they will be significant and negative. Thus, to say that regulation would harm the economy to such an extent that the data from experts does not sway them is to say that those long-term effects just aren't worth the short-term effects. I guess I'm coming from the stance of "actions" speaking louder than words, and their opinions on global warming being little more than political tactics because "Corporate profits are more important than your grandchildren's health" doesn't sound too great to voters.

My point is, then, that the science is so sound, so undisputed, that it is unethical to ignore it and not educate those who hear falsehoods simply for this strange idea that we need to take tender care of the feelings of those who embrace such falsehoods.

Global warming is a serious enough threat, but let me use another, equally serious and perhaps even more controversial example. If a game had sexual preference, you might recognize that a large percentage of your players felt uncomfortable with homosexual characters. You could, say, allow the player to erect reparative therapy centers in your city/world/whatever, and let the homosexual population dwindled. However, this would feed into a falsehood that such "therapy" is anything but ineffective and dangerous.

Or, you could simply allow a setting for "No gays". But that in itself would be offensive to a large segment of your player base, not to mention contradicting our diverse reality, science, and our social responsibility to speak beyond "killing time" with this medium. Allowing comfortable solutions to "alternative perspectives" on what science speaks of homosexuality would be no better than catering to other forms of bigotry.

I'm rambling a bit, but my point is that what some are calling "politics", I call an ethical responsibility to not concede to known falsehoods and, for what? To coddle our players? To maximize profits? To ensure customer loyalty? Be respectful of other world perspectives, but let research stand on its own, whether the question is of physics, psychology, sociology, or climatology.

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Jacob Germany
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"But it doesn't explain morality, it doesn't explain good and evil, it doesn't explain why we exist".

"And ultimately, science doesn't satisfy the conscious soul"

I never said it did. I just said it's unethical to ignore what we know of the world to cater to those who ignore data and reason for the sake of talking heads on TV.

Showing reason, meaning, or the like in a game is the artistic side of design. It's the story, the deep seeded utilization of mechanics to show aspects of life, the expression of experiences... the art.

But when you're trying to find the equation for gravitational force, or the likelihood of a given effect of global warming based on different levels of prevention, or the social effects of some event, you look to science.

Meaning is valuable, but it's the realm of art and religion, as you said. Equations and cause and effect, meanwhile, are the realm of science. A person should no more look to politicians or papal authorities for answers to how the world works as they should look to scientists for why it works.

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Gerald Belman
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Josh, you seem like someone who is at least a fairly intelligent person. You should take another look at evolution.

The catholic church pays scientists to study evolution.

Evolution is something you can determine by looking at the facts. It should not conflict with your faith in any way.

Just the simple fact that they can evolve bacteria in a specific way to create medicines should be enough to explain the existence of evolution to you; let alone the fact that they have found fossilized remains of creatures that appear to exhibit traits of humans but also have robust "ape-like" features.

Evolution is basically change over time. I don't think change over time should conflict with your faith.

You are right when you say that there are some things that science will never be able to explain - and that only you yourself can answer spiritually. But when science can explain something - you should not let it conflict with your faith.

I would compare it to all the religous people who refused to believe that the earth orbits the sun back in the old times.

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Gerald Belman
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Josh, you are going to have to look a little bit deeper and be a little more open-minded.

icr.org is the website for the institute of creation research. The word "creation" implies an inherent bias in their research. It is related to the word "creationism". It would be like someone naming their organization - "The Institute for the Study of How the Earth is the Center of the Solar System" - and then go on to have a disingenuous debate about whether or not the earth goes around the sun or vice versa.

Carbon dating is actually not extraordinarily complicated. You understand the concept of radioactivity and radioactive decay correct? Do you understand what the word "half life" means? The name of the famous valve game.

Basically all plants on earth absorb an isotope of carbon from the atmosphere called carbon-14. They do this through photosynthesis. Carbon-14 is a slightly radioactive isotope of carbon. It has a half life of 5,730 years. Since we know that all living animals contain carbon-14 in amounts that correlate with the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere - and we know that they stop absorbing carbon-14 when they die - we can use basic math to determine when an animal died by observing how much carbon-14 their fossilized/preserved flesh or bones contain. Scientists will take a sample of a fossilized/preserved dead organism's flesh or bones and observe the ratio of carbon-14 to the carbon-14 decay products that are present.

Carbon dating is accurate up to 58,000 to 62,000 years.

Other radioactive isotopes that have a longer half life can be used to date much older fossils and just how long ago stones were formed in general.

Radiometric dating (often called radioactive dating) is a technique used to date materials such as rocks, usually based on a comparison between the observed abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope and its decay products, using known decay rates. - This is how they date dinosaur bones.

"Either way to me the more important issues of the human condition. What these ideas cost us and what we gain in recognition. If "change over time" is important to the human condition, does creating an "anti-faith" around it help humanity?"

You are farther gone than I thought.
Are you saying that people who accept and study the theory of evolution are "anti faith"? Are you saying scientists are "anti faith"? Are you saying change over time is "anti-faith"?

I have a quote for you Joshua.
Jesus said "...you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

If you don't believe this then this discussion (and really any discussion with you) is pointless. If you want to bask in your ignorance of the natural world because you think that is what Jesus wants, then go right ahead. Just don't go around preaching your BS to other people.

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Gerald Belman
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You asked about carbon-14 so I explained it to you on a high level. Dating methods help us determine the approximate age of the earth - which is something you crazy creationists can't seem to agree on. You've got the biblical adherents who say 10,000 years and you've got the crazy dinosaur-human coexistent who say 60,000 years. (remarkable how we haven't found any human fossils inside of dinosaur stomachs)

The gap problems are exaggerated by the creationism community - basically it just means that we will continue to improve our fossil record when it comes to finding more. The fact of the matter is that we have humanoid fossils that range all the way from what you would probably call an "ape man" all the way up to modern humans. Everywhere in between - but we will keep looking for more.

All you have to do is Google "famous anthropology fossils" and you can look at them all for yourself.

How do you explain a fossil that appears to be humanoid but not quite human(in fact rather ape-like)?

I actually don't have these discussions with people to change their minds(as I know from experience that many people ignore factual evidence in favor of their own misguided ideas even when it is blatantly obvious). The reason I have these discussions is to find people that I don't ever really have to pay attention to. I can basically just pass over all your future comments as those of a rather confused person.

You can redeem yourself though. You just have to look for your own answers based on factual evidence.

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Gerald Belman
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Believe it or not, I did not accept evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth until I was about 15 or 16. Before then I either didn't care or was too busy playing video games to enjoy a good book on the subject.

If you are truly interested in changing your mind on the subject; I would recommend an anthropology book on the subject.

If you want a dry but highly informative textbook, I would recommend:
Anthropology - William A. Haviland - Paperback ... 4th Edition

This edition literally sells for a dollar(not including shipping) There is probably a much newer edition by now.

If you want something more entertaining(and free but not as reliable) I would recommend reading Wikipedia. And if you want to you can spend time on Wikipedia looking for links to books or articles.

This would be a great place to start:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_human_evolution_fossils
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution

If you dislike or distrust Wikipedia I would recommend:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/275670/human-evolution/
250596/The-fossil-evidence

When you say "disputed" what do you mean? If you mean disputed by other qualified and respected scientists then none of the vital facts are disputed. If you mean "disputed" as in it is disputed by the creationism community then all of it is disputed.

If you want to find a scientific book that will even consider creationism - you will have a tough time. Most scientists just want to move past that old debate and get on with the questions of what does it mean to us; not whether or not it happened.

If you find the idea of human evolution to be too disturbing then start with animal evolution in general. Work your way up to it.

Ole Berg Leren
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@Joshua

Just thought I'd pop in with a link to an overview of Evolution, and a youtube-personality named AronRa who has a ton of videos concerning Evolution. AronRa may be a bit abrasive, as he has no love for Creationists, but I hope you can see past that! The youtube-link is to the first series that came to mind.

I think the Theory of Evolution is fascinating stuff, and unless you're a fundamentalist religious person, I don't see why Evolution should be so divisive to you? I guess it would be a lot clearer why you dislike Evolution if you would elaborate on your beliefs. If you believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible (assuming you're christian), particularly the account of Genesis, then that is an obvious point of schism.


Overview:
http://talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-intro-to-biology.html

AronRa:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91UAzMNUDLU

Gerald Belman
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Ole's links seem good. You should check those out too if you would prefer video.

I personally prefer and would recommend walls of boring text. But if you want something that is more combative and exciting then AronRa might be a good choice.

You might need a little bit of tolerance to watch AronRa though - he seems to be a little bit abrasive indeed. But the information he presents is interesting and informative nonetheless.

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Michael Joseph
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more cool insights into SimCity

Water distribution
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHR06lIPUFc

Economic loop
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mbzb1rU7xE

Fire!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Gv5XxEkcrQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpVNMpVAVj8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ79RvO3Fkk

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