LinCity-NG for Linux vs. SimCity: Is Free Always Better?

Danny Stieben 08-08-2013

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 FlightGear 2.6: Your Free, Open Source Flight Simulator Got Even Better [Cross Platform] As a kid, I've always loved to play with flight simulators. I still do today, except the ones we get to enjoy today are way more advanced than what I got to play with about... Read More 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?

About LinCity-NG


LinCity-NG is an improved version of LinCity with 3D graphicals and other various enhancements. The original LinCity is comparable to Micropolis Micropolis - A New Name For a Classic City Simulator Game Remember when SimCity first came out? When you sank days into what by modern standards is a simple simulation? Nothing quite like it existed before, and it took the world by storm – and killed... Read More (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 SimCity 2013 - The Tale Of a Terrible Launch & a Terrific Game [MUO Gaming] SimCity was one of the first PC games I ever played when it was first released in 1989 - I was just 7 at the time. You'll understand then why this game holds a particularly... Read More , 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


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  1. Anonymous
    July 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

    You seem to have missed the point of LinCity-NG. If you play it as a freebie replacement for SimCity you will be sorely disappointed. LinCity-NG is very different to SimCity.

    In LinCity-NG you manage mining resources and population to gain technology to build the city. When you begin a new city in LinCity-NG you have zero tech and are pretty much in the stone age. You need to increase the amount of ore, coal, steel and goods to increase your tech level (i.e. your citizens need to learn to produce and work with steel to produce goods). As your citizens learn and evolve your tech level increases making more advanced technologies available. Eventually your citizens will progress their skills to building rockets.

    In amongst all this you will need to manage your population growth, jobs for your citizens, food, water, pollution and services to keep your citizens housed, fed and happy. The thing to remember when you start a new city, citizens must to learn to use fire and wheels long before they can learn to put a man on the moon.

  2. Anonymous
    December 24, 2013 at 10:56 am

    The main point of Free Software is that its Free as in Freedom, not necessarily Free as in Beer. Of course software you pay for is often better, but this has nothing to do with free vs. proprietary. A lot of people collaborating on free software are actually paid by their employers to do so.

  3. JudoFernando
    October 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Free isn't better in this case.

  4. The24
    August 15, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I'm pretty certain LinCity-NG was designed upon gameplay from SimCity 3000. It's hardly fair to compare it to the far more advanced sequel.

  5. TechnoAngina
    August 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I think it's a bit unfair to compare a game that hasn't been updated in 6 years to a game from today. The complaints about the events and the traffic are valid, but for it's time it was really a very beautiful game for absolutely no cost. It's definitely tarnished over the years, but again it's essentially like comparing Micropolis to Lincity-NG.

    Some of the gaming issues you bring up actually do matter in the game, but they are more important towards the later parts of the game when pollution becomes an issue. To be completely fair I don't think even if work had continued through to this day that Simcity of today wouldn't blow it away, but that's to be expected, it's got a full team of fully paid people behind it and it's a franchise game.

    Essentially what you've done is compare something like Urban Terror(with a much bigger team) to Battlefield 3 or Tremulous to Natural Selection or an even more apt comparison would be Widelands to the current Settlers game. There's definitely something to be said for greed/paid games making a lot of good products, after all everyone needs to eat. I know for my part though, that I'd much rather prefer Lincity-NG to EA's Simcity, though the current state of open source gaming seems to have cooled with the rest of the PC gaming market, especially since there are so many low cost indie developers who are porting games to Linux these days. I think Humble Bundle has done more to bring about less open source gaming than anything since they made very good games, very available at very low costs, which should hopefully help everyone.

  6. Lisa O
    August 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I don't think free is always better. Sometimes the best thing costs money, for legitimate reasons.