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The website servers are based in Canada, and the webmaster goes under the username "Dirktator", but people refer to him as "Dirk". He is helped in the task of maintaining the site by seven administrators as well as over thirty moderators and chat operators. The site has recently undergone an upgrade to new forum software.
Simtropolis is primarily an internet forum, used for discussions related to SimCity 4, such as news, tips and tricks, city planning, experiments and troubleshooting. In addition, the Simtropolis forums devotes a portion of its space for the custom contents development and modding, including two forums designated for activities in two of the largest SimCity 4 Mod Squad teams: the BAT Squad Certification (BSC) and NDEX, as well as the SimMars mod project for SimCity 4]].
Another area of the forums contains "city journals", in which a user tells the story of their city and how it grows. Other discussions areas and forum sections cover real-life architecture, urbanism and city planning, forum games, and other computer/console games. The website has upgraded to Simtropolis 7.0, and donations are still needed to upkeep the busy fansite.
Simtropolis is a non-profit community. This means that the primary source of revenue is user donations. Users donating US$20 or more receive a free "STEX-CD" which includes many popular custom content for SimCity 4. In 2004, Dirk experimented with placing Google AdSense on the website, but this proved unpopular with the members and generated very little income.
For the 2006 upgrades, Dirk urged users to donate money to the website as the upgrades would cost an estimated US$1600. During this time, many staff members and a number of users offered sponsorships, to students who were willing, yet unable to donate.
Simtropolis also offers an area to upload and distribute custom contents for SimCity 4 and SimCity (2013), dubbed the Simtropolis EXchange (STEX), which hosts thousands of objects created with the Building Architect Tool and Lot Editor, as well as maps, both real and fantasy. In addition to this, the STEX allows users to comment and rate contents based on the item's quality or usability (with the exception of game modifying mods).
Also, a 'Mods & Downloads' section is available, which included user-made mods to the game's features. These can include manipulating the game engine to increase maximum commute time lengths or altering the textures on road and street surfaces to become more European.
In addition to the STEX and the Mods & Downloads section, Simtropolis manages an omnibus, which contains a database of useful instructions and tips on playing SimCity 4 and creating custom content for the game. Articles in the Simtropolis Omnibus are written by multiple Simtropolis members, some of whom are experienced in their respective field of the written article. Many of the contributors to the Omnibus are members of the Simtropolis Help Squad.
Simtropolis Help Squad
The Simtropolis Help Squad helps new users navigate around the site. The Help Squad was founded in July 2005, but have been active in contributing articles to the website's Omnibus. During the 2005 Golden Llama Awards, the squad received a Trixie for their hard work, and dedication towards improving the website and offering newcomers help when they first arrive at the website and sign up.
The Simtropolis Help Squad is run by Simtropolis moderator Cheese89, but it has been run in the past by Compromise (who was also the founder of the Simtropolis Help Squad) and Hordijk. Following behind are Mikeaut1 and Beebs who are the current assistant heads of the squad.
Live chatting and podcasting
Simtropolis presently has an online live chat feature, allowing members to chat about anything (although it must be kept "PG-13" or lower at all times). The live chat rooms are controlled by chat operators (ops) and chat administrators (admins). Chat operators have the ability to warn, freeze, kick, ban, check the IP address of users and send trans-room messages. chat administrators in addition can change chat functions and configurations, view all messages being sent to the server and also give normal users the status of temporary operator or temporary administrator (temps). During a minor site update in June 2005, the live chat was altered to include a set of site rules that members must agree too before being allowed to enter the live chat rooms.
In December 2005, the idea for a podcast was taken up by the stCast team. They first released a trailer in early December and they now produce monthly episodes with a multitude of items including a roundtable discussion, news, chat and other reviews.
Every month, one member is chosen for a Member of the Month (MOTM) Award. The winners usually receive a custom member label if they didn't have one originally and a small medal stating why they were chosen for the award. Also, every month, a staff member is chosen for an Employee of the Month (EOTM) Award.
Each year, Simtropolis organizes a Golden Llama Awards (or Trixie Awards) ceremony, awarding members of the site who contributed or performed well towards the Simtropolis community with "ribbons". The type of nominations may range from friendly members, to custom content creators, to creators of cities showcased in city journals. The Trixies for each year are announced in December of the same year.
2006 Simtropolis upgrades
Between late February 2006 to April 2006, Simtropolis went through an extensive continuing change of forum software which converted the forums from IdealBB 1.53b to FuseTalk 3.0. There was also a server upgrade which enabled more people to be online at once, thus getting rid of timeout errors and Dirk, the creator of Simtropolis, limiting the amount of people allowed on at one time. The population had surged above 100,000 in the preceding period, thus taxing the site. The STEX was also pushing 30 GB, so increased harddisk capacity was added. The homepage of the site was restored in mid-April this year. The Live chat software remained unchanged, currently provided by RealChat.
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Dirk is the founder and head forum administrator of Simtropolis. Dirk has been given exclusive interviews and meetings with Electronic Arts, publishers of SimCity 4 and The Sims 2, Tilted Mill, developers of SimCity Societies, and Monte Cristo, developers of City Life and Cities XL.
Recent server problems
- Sometime in late May 2008, server farms in China used Google to exploit SQL databases with automated searches. Simtropolis was part of this attack and was taken down for about a week.
- Since these attacks, the servers have been running slowly. Occasionally the servers would go down completely at what appears to be random intervals. The servers were completely shut down, and a message saying Simtropolis is down for repairs was not seen, but rather a "Page could not be loaded" error.
- In February 2011, the entire site was take offline for updates. The updates went on for much longer than expected due to problems with converting a large number of forum posts to a new file format. Simtropolis did not comment on whether the delays were related to the Chinese server farm issues of 2008.