As noted in an earlier post, I am playing Sim Tower. I have successfully crafted a building worthy of the “Tower” classification – that is, a permanent population of 15,000 sims, sufficient parking, recycling, security, and medical facilities, an underground metro station, and on the 100th story, a majestic cathedral in which weddings are held.

The cathedral atop Corporate Hell

The cathedral atop Corporate Hell

I eschewed the normal strategy of interleaving floors of offices and hotels and retail establishments and instead built a tower which I named “Corporate Hell”. Inside its metal skin are 100 floors of offices packed side-to-side, with thousands of sims eking out a living in a nest of cubicles. Stairs and elevators snake through the building, surrounded at every stop by gangs of workers desperate to leave for their 30 minute unpaid lunch breaks. It reeks of misery, money, and the American way.

The game imposes a limitation on the number of elevators, which provides most of the challenge at later stages of play. Early on, one is most concerned with money – everything has a price, and to achieve a higher star rating (one star, two stars, etc. to 5 stars, then “Tower”) one must meet various population and facility requirements. However once the player (or mogul, as I prefer to see myself) elevates the establishment to 3 stars the money is pouring in far faster than it can be spent. For reference, installing an office costs $40,000; Corporate Hell now makes over $5 M a day.

Therefore as the game progresses the problem is one of population control. With few elevators and limited stair access, the sims are forced to queue in long lines to get in or out of the building. This causes them stress which in turn confers a low evaluation to the office in which they work. Too low of an evaluation and the denizens will leave the building permanently… and we can’t have that.

It turns out, however, that if the rent on an office is lowered to its minimum – $2,000 a quarter (2 weekdays and 1 weekend in the Sim Tower world) – the sims will put up with any amount of abuse from their corporate overlords. So long as there is a path from every office to every place a sim might want to go – the lobby, the outside world, the medical facilities, the metro – they will continue to show up day after day, even as their stress levels are nearing the point of mental instability.

Sims are represented by tiny silhouettes. The game adjusts a sim’s color to demonstrate his stress, from black (calm) to pink (stressed) to red (aneurysmic).

The early birds have a chance of getting inside, despite the long elevator queues

The early birds have a chance of getting inside, despite the long elevator queues

Thus, Corporate Hell has 100 floors of the cheapest offices, with a single elevator shaft serving every set of 15 floors. For added degradation of the bread-winners there is only one car per elevator shaft. The lines are brutal. Sims that arrive at dawn (6 AM) will most likely make it to their office by noon; those arriving after will still be queued for the elevators when the lucky few clock out in the afternoon. At 3 AM there are hordes of burnt-out shells of men and women still waiting to reach the lobby for their lunch breaks.

The upper level offices are never inhabited (yet their workers graciously pay the rent every quarter) – there’s just no possible way to scale the 100 torturous floors in less than 12 hours. Workers that do manage to reach offices above the 50th floor enter, turn on the lights, and immediately turn them off and get in line for the elevator back down. They can be found there as dawn breaks on the next day, at which point the game doles out the slightest bit of mercy and removes them from the building in a single, rapture-like evacuation.

Quarter after quarter the money pours in. On the weekends the building is dead (except for those trapped in the lobby). Occasionally weddings are held in the chapel, but any marriage that is initiated on the roof of this Brazil-esque workplace is as hopeless as the zombies that inhabit the fluorescent-lit cubicles within.

The brutality of the simulation, the ruthlessness that it allows the player, is astounding. A two-dimensional building becomes a conduit for corporate cruelty. But it’s not schadenfreude if you turn a profit, right?

Just another day at the office: 12 hours waiting for the elevator to take a lunch break

Just another day at the office: 12 hours waiting for the elevator to take a lunch break


Yesterday I rediscovered an old game that I used to enjoy. As it happens to be, I still enjoy this game, much to the detriment of my household chores! The game is SimTower, in which the enterprising player constructs a skyscraper floor by floor.

The game is 2-dimensional in graphics and mainly revolves around balancing elevators with office space, providing adaquate housekeeping stations for hotel rooms, and maximizing weekend profits with restaurants. It has all the usual accoutrements of a Sims game: complaining Sims, quarterly income and costs, tradeoffs between packing guests like sardines in tins and wasting precious space, and so on.

I am currently (well, the tower is running on its own on my desk in my apartment) building a major office building – no hotel rooms or condos. I may eventually put a series of penthouse floors on the upper levels, but currently it’s all office, all the time. This makes construction easy: offices are the cheapest of all room types. With each new block of offices I also install a restaurant or two to catch the lunch crowd and to bring in weekend profits (when the rest of the building sits dormant).

I started the tower yesterday when I finished work (my second job) and let it run overnight. I glanced at it this morning but didn’t disturb it: apparently I accrued $30+ million between dusk and dawn! The building is very small right now, and only earns two stars (out of five), but it’s growing.

The program itself was originally written for Windows 3.1 and supposedly plays fine up through Vista. I’m running it on Linux under Wine, which required some fiddling (doesn’t it always?). I had to disable sound card support in Wine and must touch (literally, with the touch command) a file before I can save to it. Other than that it runs fairly well – well enough for me to slowly grow Nate-Corp world headquarters!

There isn’t a “winning” moment in the game; many players consider themselves to have won when their building earns five-star “tower” status, which requires a huge number of floors and money and a giant population. Often times the goal is to further establish a cathedral on top of the tower and have a wedding in it, which is, technically speaking, the most difficult acheivement in the game.

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten past a three-star building, but I enjoy just playing around with it. And of course it’s a Sims game, so that means that sooner or later I’m going to build 20 stories of hotels and then demolish the elevator and watch how stressed the people get when they can’t make it to the below-ground shopping mall!

Screenshot coming later, when I’m home.