Silicon City’s energy management program
Discover how Polycorne integrated energy management in Silicon City. Between game design, user experience, challenges and problems encountered, the Polycorne team answers your questions.
Why did you implement a power grid and energy system in the game?
On the one hand, this concept has been present since the first CityBuilders (SimCity, CitySkyline…), so players would have asked for it. On the other hand, it is a current problem that concerns us all today, we have to learn how to manage energy. If the mayor had been cleared of this problem, it would have taken away an interesting gameplay phase, also counting as one of the main missions given to the player. Also, the electrical system is essential since it allows to supply the houses of the citizens.
How did you represent it in the game?
Energy is represented by small balls of energy that move along the power grid. For the sake of simplicity, we wanted to remove the power poles, although they are visible and easily identifiable in the game. Instead, we chose to integrate the electric circuits into the roads, as it is also the case in other games, but also in the real world. Since the electrical network is underground, we developed a system of camera filter of the game that allows to show the power lines underground and to see how the energy flows (although the player can also put some above ground).
What is the impact of energy in the development of the city?
It is a primary need: without electricity, the buildings in the city cannot develop. A residential area built without access to electricity will not attract any inhabitants, for example, they will not settle there and the area will not develop. On the other hand, it is important for the development of the city, the mayor has to provide enough electricity for the energy needs of his city (for the buildings, new inhabitants that arrive…).
What are the solutions to best develop electricity in the city?
The player can build different types of power plants: wind, solar or fossil (coal). A meter is available to see the energy consumption as well as the production capacity of the city. Then, the player also has access to a special energy camera filter to analyze the energy trajectories when moving. Statistics concerning the demand for energy and the capacity of the city to supply it are also available. If there is a lack of energy supply from a building, for example, that requires 100 mega watts when there are only 80 mega watts available, the player will notice that the building is flashing red and will adapt by adding a new energy source.
What were the problems encountered in game during development?
Problems of electricity distribution mainly: at the beginning, the energy balls were moving in a very random way, so some buildings requiring energy were not receiving any. When the energy from a power plant to a large building goes through several other structures, it gets smaller and smaller as it feeds the buildings in its path until it reaches 0 on the meter: the building that needs the most energy gets nothing in the end because of the random path of the energy. There was another concern about performance: in fast speed, the calculation of the movement of the energy balls (comparable to electrons) took too much time, which made the game slow down. This problem was solved by giving the energy a constant speed no matter how fast the game is simulated. This idea was inspired by Einstein’s Law of Special Relativity.
How did the idea of adding different camera shots come about?
Because we like to show the invisible. The 3D view will be used to show 3D objects like citizens and structures, but not energy. This underground “X-ray” view therefore allows the player to see the invisible data in a realistic data analysis perspective. This camera filter was already present in the first versions of the game with the different views given, and as in any CityBuilder, the player needs to know where the electrical problems are. So the different camera shots are the best way to see them and correct them.
Silicon City is available on Steam in early access: