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I’ve always loved simulation games for as long as I can remember. They can involve so many different aspects of the topic in question and can keep you entertained for hours. However, a common downside to any great simulation game is the price to purchase it. Thankfully, there are open source equivalents which aim to replace their costly proprietary cousins — examples include FlightGear and LinCity-NG as alternatives to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series and SimCity games respectively.
It’s great to be able to play these open source games for frugal fun, but whether they can actually be compared to their competitors is uncertain. Is Lincity-NG a real competitor to SimCity, or is it more of a failed attempt?
LinCity-NG is an improved version of LinCity with 3D graphicals and other various enhancements. The original LinCity is comparable to Micropolis (the name of the original SimCity game after it was open sourced), but it seems harder to play because of its confusing colors and button layout. It’s very hard to find in a packaged form for your distribution, however, so your top choices for SimCity-like games are LinCity-NG and Micropolis.
Installing LinCity-NG should be as simple as searching for “lincity” in your respective package manager. If for whatever reason you’re not able to find it, searching the Internet for Lincity-NG and your distribution should give you some answers about its availability.
Starting LinCity-NG presents you some simple options: New Game, Continue, Load, Save, and Options. Most of these buttons are self-explanatory, and the Options button isn’t too important as the main feature you’ll find there is a toggle for fullscreen.
Starting a new game allows you to choose from a small selection of different scenarios to begin with, or you can choose to start with a randomly generated village or just a clean slate. The choice is completely up to you, so just choose what you like and proceed.
After clicking on Start, you are launched straight into your city. You’ll immediately notice that the graphics are… alright. They could definitely use some improvement, but for an old open source game that hasn’t seen any development for the past several years, it’s acceptable.
The interface is eerily similar to previous SimCity games, but at the same time it’s very confusing to use. It definitely takes some getting used to in order to figure out which buttons do what and where they are. Even then, there isn’t a strong presence of vital SimCity components such as the RCI balance and trading. Things such as residential, markets, and industrial do exist as well as mines, but I don’t see much use of doing so besides plopping them down for the heck of it. The categorization of items to place is pretty off, as markets (the assumable equivalent to commercial buildings) are grouped together with farms and parks. What? There’s also no visualization of traffic besides a traffic density chart, which I find to be completely boring because despite that data, you still have to imagine that traffic on the roads.
The latest SimCity, on the other hand, contains all of these features — impressive 3D graphics, plenty of tools for growing and managing your city (including true RCI and trading, mining, and more), and traffic simulation. Heck, there’s even support for disasters which LinCity-NG seems to lack (and even Micropolis includes them!). I also like the new approach to regions, meaning that you most likely won’t do very well unless you build multiple cities that eventually cooperate with each other.
There are three main downsides to the latest SimCity, however, which include:
- It’s not playable unless you have at least decent hardware (my quad-core Intel i7 laptop with Intel HD Graphics 4000 makes it just barely playable)
- It requires you to play online (thankfully LinCity-NG is a fully offline game, but then again there’s also no multiplayer support)
- It costs $40, or $60 for the Deluxe Edition, not including any other non-free addons.
For some people, the price tag may be too much, but for others, it’s worth the money.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fantastic open source games that can satisfactorily replace or even surpass the proprietary cousins. Sadly, LinCity-NG simply isn’t one of them. If you’re still really interested in playing an open source version of SimCity, Micropolis would be a better option if you’re fine with going retro as that would be the only scenario I think that would make it worthwhile. Otherwise, bite the bullet and get the latest SimCity for Windows or try to nab an earlier version of SimCity and get it to run under Wine.
What do you think of the state of open source games? What about proprietary games that work under Linux? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Werner Kunz