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One SimCity Per Child 253

Posted by Zonk
from the now-that's-edumacation dept.
SimHacker writes "Electronic Arts has donated the original 'classic' version of Will Wright's popular SimCity game to the One Laptop Per Child project. SimCity is the epitome of constructionist educational games, and has been widely used by educators to unlock and speed-up the transformational skills associated with creative thinking. It's also been used in the Future City Competition by seventh- and eighth-grade students to foster engineering skills and inspire students to explore futuristic concepts and careers in engineering. OLPC SimCity is based on the X11 TCL/Tk version of SimCity for Unix developed and adapted to the OLPC by Don Hopkins, and the GPL open source code will soon be released under the name "Micropolis", which was SimCity's original working title. SJ Klein, director of content for the OLPC, called on game developers to create 'frameworks and scripting environments — tools with which children themselves could create their own content.' The long term agenda of the OLPC SimCity project is to convert SimCity into a scriptable Python module, integrate it with the OLPC's Sugar user interface and Cairo rendering library. Eventually they hope to apply Seymour Papert's and Alan Kay's ideas about constructionist education and teaching kids to program."
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One SimCity Per Child

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  • Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGreatHegemon (956058) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:36PM (#21286637)
    I remember I use to enjoy that game immensely when I was younger. I almost do believe it may very well help a person to develop their thinking abilities.
  • A targeted campaign to help develop observational skills and problem solving by packaging Myst with the XO? Sounds like the beginning of bloat to me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Stonent1 (594886)
      Well SimCity certainly couldn't be much bloat. I ran it on a Tandy 1000 with a single disk drive and probably less than 640k.
      • I was thinking bloat more in the context of how much value does it really add, versus how many resources it consumes. I guess I just question how much actual learning comes from playing the game.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by DeepHurtn! (773713)
          Buddy, it's *SimCity*. Hand in your Nerd Card at the door! ;p
        • by 4D6963 (933028)

          I was thinking bloat more in the context of how much value does it really add

          What damn bloat are you talking about? All it takes is a few hundreds of kilobytes on the laptop's flash memory thing. That's what you're whining about? A few hundreds of kilobytes on a 1 GB (or was it 512 MB?) memory?

        • by et764 (837202)
          I played a lot of SimCity as a kid. I don't know of any way that I could quantify the educational value of the time I spent playing with it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was about as educational to me as playing with Legos was. My gut feeling is this is worth it, especially given that by today's standards, the resources it requires are practically nothing.
    • SimCity is an educational game of sorts, and can be done in as little as 1101 KB (the size of SimCity on my m68k Palm-phone) Myst is a nice-looking clickfest that takes up an entire CD (and the XO only has 1 GB)
  • by stormguard2099 (1177733) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:43PM (#21286739)
    Is this to give the kids a virtual sense of what it's like to live in a 1st world country? "look at all of the nice luxuries you will never experience!" how about the irony of building a nuclear powerplant on a computer you have to handcrank?
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by pwnies (1034518) <j@jjcm.org> on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:43PM (#21286749) Homepage Journal
    Great, now all the kids in third world countries are going to think that western cities are subject to alien attacks if you type "cass" more than 3 times.
  • Too Late... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:46PM (#21286815)
    I see I'm too late to beat our cynical Slashdotters to the punch. Instead of complaining about how evil EA is, and what kind of ulterior motives they may have, can we simply not recognize this as a net Good Thing? I know I learned a lot of planning for the future, fiscal management, and balancing multiple (sometimes conflicting) priorities while still achieving overall success, from that game as a child. Technical issues aside from making the game run, this will be a great gain for OLPC users.
    • This is Simcopter one, reporting heavy philanthropy.
    • by jhines (82154)
      Sure is a better choice than GTA, or a shooter, etc.

      Be cool if they could link to others playing, as neighboring cities.

      The possibilities of edu-tainment are unlimited.
  • by Debello (1030486) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:46PM (#21286817)
    When I first got my copy of Sim City years ago, I was such a jerk as a mayor. I had a damn fine city. No crime, no pollution, no trash, no fires, no NOTHIN'. It was the perfect city. I always managed a surplus, and the city could keep growing and growing. My excellent management skills made sure everything was compact and efficient. I was extremely creative in my infrastructure. I was also a jerk. When I realized that I was doing TOO good of a job, I decided, "That's it. This is boring. I'm going to be a jerk." So I started putting airports right smack in the middle of residential sectors, putting a single factory in the middle of a commercial district, making roads that could easily go straight zigzag, and making huge detours when I could easily put an inter-section. I also raised taxes as high as possible without having people get too mad. The power was really, really fun. Now, do we want a world full of egotistical ten years who are jerks to those who follow them "Just 'cause." I think not!
  • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:48PM (#21286849)

    Of late, it seems that EA is cleaning itself up. I between screwing up C&C: Generals (a patch for the expansion left the game in a broken state for a few years), employee mistreatment, and generally writing mostly shovelware franchise titles like Madden, I had been boycotting them. But now I think they deserve another chance because:

    1. Spore
    2. Give away the original C&C
    3. Made a C&C game that actually has a story connected to the rest of the C&C games
    4. One of the first developers to realize the Wii had potential

    So while I'm still keeping a close eye on them, they've at least convinced me that their games are worth buying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rpillala (583965)

      I've been reading Good to Great [jimcollins.com], and I think EA's acquisition of Bioware is interesting. Bioware not only makes good games, but they also develop some interesting engine technology. For example their infinity engine was used by a number of other games and recently we read that Mass Effect's chat system will be used in other EA titles. It seems like a more sensible acquisition to buy a company for their catalog and game tech expertise than to do it just to exploit the popularity of certain games. It could

    • The three first make sence, but "realize the Wii had potential"? That's just commercial thinking, nothing noble about it. Microsoft and Sony may be big bad guys, but Nintendo have never been any less evil. Just smaller. Nintendo have been very hard on modders and independent game makers historically.
    • by Schnapple (262314)

      Made a C&C game that actually has a story connected to the rest of the C&C games

      Not sure if you're aware, but C&C games have three "universes", Tiberian [wikipedia.org], Red Alert [wikipedia.org] and Generals [wikipedia.org]. So the reason that, say, Red Alert had nothing to do with C&C1 was because they were in different universes.

      But yeah the fact that C&C3 is the first RTS in the original universe since Tiberian Sun (technically C&C2) is pretty cool

  • - Will it work on a black and white screen when the color codes are so important
    - What about the open source lincity ?
  • sim city was great. sim city 2000 was awesome. sim ant was pretty fun, had some really humorous moments. sim farm was tough. every farm i built went bankrupt except almond farms. maybe it was too realistic. sim life was cool as far as i could tell, it really taxed my pc at the time.
     
    i still have the floppys, manuals and boxes for all those games. top quality stuff, i don't think you see materials of that quality any more when it comes to games.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by boyter (964910)
      The trick to sim farm was plant 4 crops of strawberries. Then keep buying land till you have 8 crops of them. Finally convert all of them to oranges. They have the advantage of only needing to be sprayed once every now and then, and having the crop sell for a bucketload of money. Using that strat you can easily beat the game and start planting whatever the hell you want.
      • almonds were kind of like that. it was fun to watch the truck loads of laborers come in and pick them. and it wasn't too hard to build up enough cash to play around. get a crop duster and fly around, buy animals and let them go hungry until they broke out of their pens and caused trouble, etc.
    • by MBCook (132727)

      The old games were great.

      For SimFarm (a game I sunk way too many hours into) the secret was: oranges.

      They fetched a high price, were pretty disease resistant, didn't need too much care, didn't have to be flooded, etc. You had to import them (there was a menu item for changing the possible crops) but once you did... moolahville.

      Without changing the default crops I went for strawberries. They loved to get diseased and needed watching, but they were worth a bunch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:50PM (#21286879)
    A lengthy mailing list post [anonymouse.org] from Alan Kaye, one of Papert's colleagues, raises the possibility that SimCity is not as constructionist as it seems at first glance:

    SimCity is similar but more pernicious. It is a black box of "soft
    somewhat arbitrary knowledge" that the children can't look at,
    question or change. For example, SC gets the players to discover that
    the way to counter rising crime is to put in more police stations.
    Most anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and economists
    would disagree violently. Alternate assumptions can't be tried, etc.
    This particular version of SimCity may be different, though, because it is open source. However, the children won't be able to truly experiment with it on the XO laptops until it is converted to Python, since the XO laptops don't ship with a C compiler (and children probably aren't going to pick up C easily, anyway).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Serhei (1150661)
      It is going to be converted into an easily hackable form. There are literally dozens of various ideas over how to modify the source floating around the mailing lists already, and most of them involve allowing the user to actually look at the underlying game mechanics.
    • by PapayaSF (721268)

      For example, SC gets the players to discover that the way to counter rising crime is to put in more police stations.

      That is at least arguable, but there was an even worse one I remember: once a city got to a certain size, the only way to end citizen complaints about traffic was to convert 100% of the roads into mass-transit rail lines! I had a hard time imagining deliveries to supermarkets, or people moving households, or buying new refrigerators, all via commuter rail....

    • Listen to Alan Kay (Score:2, Interesting)

      by WeirdJohn (1170585)
      It's probably worth noting that Alan Kay (not Kaye) is a little more than just "one of Papert's colleagues" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Kay. In many ways Kay could be considered the inventor of the OLPC concept with his Dynabook concept from the 1970s. He was also one of the inventors of OOP and Smalltalk and is probably the most informed person on the planet when it comes to discussing the role of computers in education. If Kay sees problems with SimCity as an educational tool on the XO he shoul
    • by Endymion (12816)
      while it would be interesting to have a sim-game that let you try other theories (later versions of Sim-City were a bit better at allowing alternate construction methods, and the Civ games were pretty good about it), I think it's important to remember that everything in Sim-City is very archetypal. You don't build business in the game, you just put "commercial districts" in. I was even surprised in SC2000 when you could even decide between low and high density housing.

      I think things like the hospitals and p
    • by MrNonchalant (767683) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @09:17PM (#21289153)

      Most anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and economists would disagree violently.
      So the way to counter rising crime is to lock up all the anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and economists?
  • Great! (Score:4, Funny)

    by bobcat7677 (561727) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @05:52PM (#21286903) Homepage
    Now the kids will have something to keep them occupied during the times they can't access the internet to download their porn. Reference: http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/07/21/1353241 [slashdot.org]
  • I'm so glad they are going to release the source to this, I hope /. has a link to it when it happens. I've always wondered how the internal simulation of the game was programmed, as I've never seen one like that and I'd love to go see that source.

    I really wish the source to more old games and programs were available. There would be so much to see. While some games don't really have source that would be easy to look at (Super Mario Brothers and many others are surely assembly)... some games like SimCity mus

  • by cvd6262 (180823) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @06:09PM (#21287147)
    So every child in developing nations will know that door-to-door commuter rail is the only way to avoid congestion.
    • It's interesting to realize that the newest generation of urban planners and civil engineers were young enough to have been influenced by SimCity growing up.
  • why not sim city 2k? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sam_paris (919837) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @06:14PM (#21287213)
    The laptops are more than powerful enough to run Sim City 2000, which was far superior to the original, why not use that?
    • by laffer1 (701823)
      I wouldn't say superior. Each game had a unique feel to it. Sim City 2000 was fun because it included my home town. Still, I personally like the Super NES version of the original. I spent hours playing that and it was much easier to navigate on. The scroll speed in some of the games varies greatly with the computer you're using. I found that some were too fast.
    • by toddestan (632714)
      Simcity is a simplier game, hopefully the kids will be able to better understand and hack it given that they will have the source code available to play with.
  • Or simcity1 + a few things from 2000 like water pipes, the highways, subways, zoned airports and seaports as well.
  • ...could you free Silent Death [wikipedia.org] to us?
  • I recall this worked for railroads but it may be applicable to other elements as well.
    When the city starts clamoring for railroads just build them anywhere in a big clump (even in the corner of the map where they are not accessible or leading to anything). This way everyone is happy you have a railroad and they don't get in the way of anything - SimCity even simulates pork barrel projects!
  • Okay, I'd love to read the original article but I don't know if I have the patience to guess-and-check my way through the onslaught of hyperlinks in the summary. Dear god, calm down with the linking already.
  • EA, who otherwise is a pretty evil outfit is doing something nice here, and I don't even care if it is for publicity.

    They are open-sourcing a classic game rather than threatening to jail people who attempt to collect it via abandonware like certain people do (I'm looking right at you Vivendi!)

    EA should be praised for this gesture, even as small as it seems. I can't believe someone is opening up software, and people are complaining.
  • I remember that game being addictive. The first time I played it I though I had played for about 90 minutes. Looking at the clock I had blown 6 hours!

    [Start Humor]
    While the game does teach some concepts, it might just kill other educational opportunities. On the plus side there will be no shortage of civil engineers.
    [End Humor]
  • by porneL (674499)
    Do they have that in languages that are used by target audience of OLPC?
  • missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fifth Earth (1172333) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @09:45PM (#21289381)
    People who complain that SimCity and its successors don't accurately model city building and management are missing the point. No simulation can totally model the complexities of a city. The reason SC is educational is because it teaches skills like creative problem-solving, planning, and risk-reward tradeoffs. What's the optimum road layout? Is it cost-effective to use parks to offset the unhappiness of high taxes? Will that nuclear power plant allow for greater growth in future years, or will the cost of replacing it in 50 years bankrupt me? Hell, any game that teaches people to budget and stay out of debt is a good thing--imagine what the national debt would be like if the President had played SC. (okay, that's over the top, but very few people have a grasp of how debt really works)

    So what if the only way to reduce crime is building police stations. The educational part isn't the concept that police prevent crime, the educational part is the skills learned in figuring out how many stations to build, and in what locations, to achieve an acceptable crime rate while not spending too much money.

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