BEING a mayor isn't, as is widely held, all about dressing up in silly frocks and leading a procession once a year. Well, maybe a bit of it is, but there are some pretty tough decisions to be made too, like what areas of natural beauty to destroy and industrialise, how high to set the rates, building roads to combat traffic congestion and building expensive residential areas for incredible rich people - like mayors - to live in.
Sim City will terraform a suitable landscape for you and set the clock back to the year 1900. How the New Town development proceeds from here is up to you.
Remember, the social make-up of the town depends on these early stages - one wrong plan and it could be Milton Keynes for thousands of innocents. You are in a position of great social responsibility.
The first thing to do is build a power station - man cannot live by candle alone. Along with this decision comes your first quandary - coal or nuclear?
A coal power station is considerably cheaper, but causes more environmental damage, and pollution is one of the factors that affects population growth. Nuclear, while more expensive, is a lot cleaner unless, of course, you have a meltdown.
Already you are making decisions which will effect the structure of the city to come. In fact, the early decisions are far more important than those taken later on.
Growth of the city will critically depend on how high you set the tax rate and how much valuable land you cultivate for the populace. The initial considerations are for power, transport and zoning regions for industry, commerce and residents.
It is important to note that you do not actually build on any of the zoned regions, your population does. If you zone a residential region in the middle of an industrial wasteland, don't expect many people to go and live there.
The challenge therefore is not merely to provide a certain amount of accommodation for each of the city's functions but to use a piece of land for the purpose for which it is most suited.
Furthermore, each zoning decision you take will effect the suitability of neighbouring property for a particular task, due to reasons of traffic, pollution nd land value. As the city grows, so will other factors, like pollution, crime and traffic density.
Police stations are a good idea, and if you are lanning for a Pudding Lane then a few fire departments might go down well too. Of course, all this costs money, and the only place to get it is via the annual rates demand. It's a good thing that you don't have to get re-elected.
Just when you think you have it all worked out the trade figures suffer a slight blip, commerce slumps, the taxes must go up and before you know it the last of the fleeing population have you hanging upside-
Presentation doesn't mean much in a game like this, but great care has been taken to make your metropolis look as brilliant as it was designed.
Sim City follows the simple philosophy of a game called Kingdom, which was widely popular in the days when programming meant wearing a white coat and flicking switches - define a few simple rules that describe a reality and then explore the mathematics. This it does excellently.