Genius game developer Will Wright’s two babies: The Sims and SimCity, have sold millions upon millions of copies. The SimCity series is famous for placing players in charge of a virtual city and allowing them to let it flourish, or burn to the ground as they see fit. The Sims, however, is all about micro, rather than macro, management. But all this could change in the upcoming release of the franchise: The Sims 5.

The evolution of The Sims neighbourhoods

When playing one of The Sims games, the first thing you’ll notice is the neighborhood. The Sims 1 featured a pre-defined hood, with more available through expansion packs. The Sims 2, however, introduced two additional neighborhoods, which allowed some customisation, but crucially entire neighborhoods could be built from scratch and added to the menu screen.

The Sims 2 even allowed players to import their maps from SimCity 4, although it usually took a lot of trial and error to make the roads look good.

While The Sims 2 may technically have been pushed into the class “outdated” by The Sims 3 and The Sims 4, it is often considered by polls and articles to be the fan-favorite. Creating your very own neighborhood from scratch and watching it become a functioning city is one of the most satisfying features of the game, as neither of its sequels offers quite the same way of playing.

The customization of neighborhoods in The Sims 4 is absent, and the game is more focused on the individual rather than the larger perspective. However, since EA shut down SimCity studio Maxis in 2015, there have been rumors that we might be seeing some of its features in the future release of The Sims 5.

City building in The Sims 5

Controversy over how The Sims 4 approached neighborhoods has not passed unnoticed, but it’s not the inability of building cities that drew the most attention, but the removal of an open world. One of the best things about The Sims 3 is that it feels like your household is part of a bigger neighborhood, one that you can freely explore without seeing a loading screen. You can nip over to your neighbors’ homes, rummage through their bins, borrow a cup of sugar or just say hello just by walking there. Everything flows together and feels like a real town.

For some reason, The Sims 4 ditches all of that. Instead of being able to freely wander your Sims neighborhood, you have to click on a menu to travel to a different location, watching a loading screen for any quick jaunt. It still makes the world feel very fragmented – and slow moving. Fans are hoping The Sims 5 will blend the open-world elements of The Sims 3 with the variety of landscapes of The Sims 4. But is this compatible with city building?

Bringing up an open world and a city building mode together is a technical challenge. It is up to Electronic Arts whether they think it’s worth dedicating resources into both, or make just one. Or none, for that matter. It wouldn’t be the first time EA ignores its fans.

So far the presence of a city building mode in The Sims 5 has only been speculation, but many fans of the franchise are looking forward to it.

What do you think? Should EA bring back the old city building mode, or should they focus on making a truly open world?

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