Micropolis: A Free and Open Source City-Building Game


Micropolis is a captivating city-building simulation game that is based on the original source code of SimCity. Developed by Don Hopkins, Micropolis offers players an opportunity to create and manage their own virtual city. What sets Micropolis apart is that it is free and open source software. The game was initially donated by Electronic Arts to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project in 2008. Since then, it has been developed and improved by various developers, making it accessible on multiple platforms.

The Origins of Micropolis


Micropolis is based on SimCity’s X11 version, a Unix operating system adaptation of the original Commodore 64 game. Maxis, the original developers, licensed the Macintosh SimCity source code to DUX Software for porting to Unix. Don Hopkins, a developer contracted by DUX Software, contributed to the Unix version and later worked on the HyperLook Edition of SimCity at the Alan Turing Institute.

Initially, the user interface for SimCity was written in PostScript and ran on the NeWS window system. However, after NeWS was discontinued, Hopkins revamped the user interface using TCL/Tk for X11. This version of SimCity was subsequently ported to numerous Unix and non-Unix platforms, including Linux, SunOS, and HP-UX.

The Birth of Micropolis

The OLPC SimCity, which eventually became Micropolis, is based on the TCL/Tk version of SimCity. Don Hopkins adapted the game for the OLPC project with the support of John Gilmore. Micropolis retains the core gameplay mechanics of SimCity, allowing players to build, manage, and expand their virtual cities. The game underwent EA’s quality assurance process and was reviewed for integrity before being shipped with the OLPC.

The Future of Micropolis

As an open source game, Micropolis is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), granting users the freedom to modify and distribute the game according to the terms of the GPL. However, to protect EA’s trademark, the game cannot be called “SimCity”. Nonetheless, the open source nature of Micropolis allows for various forks and projects to be developed from its source code.

Moving forward, improvements and enhancements to the Micropolis source code can be incorporated into the official “OLPC SimCity” version. However, these changes must be reviewed and approved by EA before distribution. The ultimate goal is to continue expanding and refining the game, ensuring its accessibility to a wide range of platforms and users.

Micropolis stands as a testament to the power of open source software, enabling developers to collaborate and contribute to the growth of a beloved game. With its rich heritage and promising future, Micropolis offers aspiring city-builders a captivating and immersive gaming experience, all while remaining free and accessible to everyone.

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