Working on the Bungeling Bay building utility made him interested in reading about urban planning theories, urban dynamics and simulation. Wright read 20 books at least on these subjects, particularly, the urban planning theories of an MIT professor named Jay Forrester.
Forrester published his findings as Urban Dynamics, a book which influenced many aspiring computer modelers. Forrester's own computer simulation was entirely numerical with no visual interface. Will Wright put flesh onto Jay Forrester's equations where cities assembled themselves on the computer screen.
So Wright took his island editor, added elements such as cars, people and an eco-system, and used Forrester's theories to simulate the environment's evolution over time. "It became a kind of test-bed for me, where I would go and read urban planning theories, then go code them up in the simulator. What was a very dry subject in books became very fascinating when I had this guinea-pig city that I could do these experiments on".
Wright began working on what would become SimCity - The City Simulator in 1985. Using a complex technique, he found a way to bring realistic simulations to desktop PCs. Previously simulations of this sort were only available to the military, scientists and academicians. But now, using an easy to use graphic interface, the world of simulations opened up to consumers.
After working on the project solo for a year, Wright was confident he had created a unique entertainment experience, although its open-ended design philosophy ran counter to typical computer games. "When I did SimCity, the games at the time really were much more about arcade style action, graphics, very intense kinds of experiences. There were very few games that were laid back, more complex."
When Will Wright proposed a game dominated by activities such as municipal zoning and transit planning and with no preset conditions for victory, the gaming industry thought he was nuts. "I used to tell people I was going to do a game about city planning," recollects Will Wright. "They'd just look at me, roll their eyes, and say, somewhat dubiously, 'Oh good Will, you go do that".
Not surprisingly, game publishers had a hard time buying into the concept. As Wright remembers, publishers such as Broderbund "just kept asking me how I was going to make it into a game". Broderbund, who published Wright's first game "Raid on Bungeling Bay", was very skeptical, insisting that without clear winners and losers, the idea would be a commercial flop. They balked at the game's open-ended, sandbox-style design. "But it felt more like Legos to me than a standard game."
However Wright resisted the pressure to change his creation and as a result, SimCity didn't have a publisher for the PC or Mac. Wright would go on to release a Commodore version in 1985 and he began selling it on his own. But without funds for marketing or any backing from publishers, sales were slow. The game stayed unpublished for the next 4 years.