A New Skyscraper on the City Sim Skyline
March 20, 2015 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Two years after the disastrous release of the much-hyped SimCity 2013 and just weeks after its legendary development studio Maxis was shut down by parent company Electronic Arts a new contender has arisen to stake its claim to the city sim crown. Cities: Skylines was released last week and has already garnered record-breaking sales and almost universally positive reviews.

A PC Gamer interview with Colossal CEO Mariina Hallikainen reveals that the game was greenlit after "what happened with SimCity" and Cities: Skylines seems to have succeeded largely by learning from and correcting its predecessor's mistakes.

SimCity 2013 draw player's ire for many reasons: it had aggressive anti-piracy measures that meant an always-on internet connection was required to play the game, EA failed dramatically to provide the server capacity required at launch meaning that a feature that players were already skeptical about rendered the game unplayable for many for weeks following launch, and finally even as these problems were addressed the limitations of the game's much-hyped engine and AI left many players thinking the simulation was fundamentally broken. Skylines avoids most of this, ditching online multiplayer and combining popular features from earlier incarnations of SimCity with some of the innovations from the 2013 version. One former Maxis artist likes the new game enough to have begun modding in his own buildings. How has the little Finnish studio celebrated Skylines' success? They bought a chocolate fountain.

Previously on Metafilter: hype and disappointment with SimCity 2013.
posted by Wretch729 (92 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great game. Not really a big sim city player myself but saw some good lets play stuff shortly after launch and decided to grab the game. It does seem to devolve into a bit of a traffic management sim but i kind of enjoy that.
posted by ST!NG at 12:24 AM on March 20, 2015


Five minutes from reading this FPP, and I'm downloading the game. After the massive disappointment of SimCity, I can't wait to play!
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:37 AM on March 20, 2015


I would be more enthused if they could figure out how to model a mixed use building...
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:44 AM on March 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


As a fan of this game's predecessor "Cities in Motion", I am very thankful toward EA for the seemingly endless series of colossal missteps that would motivate Paradox to fund a much more ambitious sequel, making "Cities: Skylines" possible.
posted by seraphine at 12:51 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I just bought this game tonight. It's pretty great.

Resolution sucks on my rMBP though...
posted by azarbayejani at 12:56 AM on March 20, 2015


azarbayejani - Are you positive it's a resolution issue? By default the game has a tilt-shift filter effect set. You can turn it off in the graphics settings. Does that improve anything for you?
posted by Wretch729 at 1:12 AM on March 20, 2015


If you do end up buying it, don't forget to stop by the Steam Workshops. There are some simply incredible mods out there already. Well worth a gamble if you're into this sort of thing.
posted by longbaugh at 1:53 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


One day I will plug my desktop back in and play this. I'm excited at the prospect of a decent SimCity successor. I played SC4 until it seemed a bit too much like beating a dead horse. After that, I got my building kicks with the Tropico series, but it was never quite right.
posted by wierdo at 2:40 AM on March 20, 2015


There are some simply incredible mods out there already.

I took a peek a few days ago, and there were something like well over 4000 mods to add new intersection types.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:41 AM on March 20, 2015


Prebuilt intersections, to be precise. You can build all of them manually ingame. But there are lots of beautiful new buildings in the workshop, too.
posted by SAnderka at 2:52 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


That PCGamer interview, by the way, was conducted by Mefi's Own notmydesk.
posted by zompist at 3:39 AM on March 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wow, I came across the Vice article last night when I was getting into bed and bookmarked it so I could look into it today. Happy to see this. Less happy that I don't actually have time to play.

If there are cheat codes, though, and I can just build a damn city ... maybe.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:30 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love skyline. I'm a big fan of city builders and this hits a lot of sweet spots. I've got about 16 hours into my first city and I'm really happy with the game so far.
posted by dejah420 at 4:48 AM on March 20, 2015


Looks great. I was excited about SimCity and then sad about the horrible reviews. EA can ruin anything.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 AM on March 20, 2015


There is an option available in the Mods menu (though its not a mod you have to download) to unlock everything and give unlimited money.

I've been playing this at least nightly since release, and am still having fun. I agree with some of the gameplay criticisms -- lacking depth in certain areas, and traffic is not very smart. But as an intersection simulator, it's great!

For example, here's all the downloadable versions of a Diverging Diamond (previous FPP) interchange.

As a general gameplay tip, highways and off-ramps tend to not make stop lights or crosswalks, so can make intersections and roundabouts flow more smoothly (even in places where a highway wouldn't normally be.)
posted by Wulfhere at 4:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Despite being surrounded by hills, the area you get to build on is as flat as a pancake...

Try this map.
posted by Pendragon at 4:58 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wanted very much to make my own post about this game on MetaFilter when I bought and downloaded it last week, but sadly I couldn't think of anything better to say about it than "AAAAAAAA THIS GAME OMG OMG PLAY IT YOU FOOLS AAAAAAA!!!"

On the other hand, what else is there to say about it?
posted by surazal at 5:32 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


This game looks fun, but after seeing the sysreqs, I'm not sure the experience will be very fun on my little iMac. Guess I'll stick with SC2K in Boxer.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:40 AM on March 20, 2015


Metafilter: It does seem to devolve into a bit of a traffic management sim but i kind of enjoy that.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:44 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


The latest episode of Three Moves Ahead was a discussion about Cities: Skylines, and an interesting one at that.

I've been playing obsessively over the last week or so, and whilst there are things I dislike, all can be improved by mods. With the integrated Steam workshop and massive fan following that has already gathered, I see great things in the future for this game.
posted by Acey at 5:51 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I bought it excitedly but am waiting for a patch or mod that allows font/UI resizing, as I can't read anything on my HDTV in its current state.
posted by the bird at the bottom of the tree at 5:54 AM on March 20, 2015


If I can't build strong towns, I don't wanna play.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:55 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It does seem to devolve into a bit of a traffic management sim but i kind of enjoy that.

the idea that the basic health of a city depends crucially on good traffic patterns seems totally at odds with pretty much any real city: both the absence of good traffic patterns and the willingness of the citizens to continue on (without defenstrating the mayor or riots) despite the terrible traffic.

it can't be a coincidence that traffic engineering such a big part of the 'simcity' genre *and* suburbanized 'urban' planning.

i was all set to get this for my kid, but it seems to require a modern-ish desktop gaming rig i.e. won't run on a T420 even with discrete graphics...


Prebuilt intersections


i spent a long time trying to develop city building scripts in minecraft using the server-side embedded javascript mod. you could get something surprisingly impressive just by putting buildings on a grid with differing heights, roof and cladding styles. but then i started trying to design roads and road intersections and got ambitious by trying to have prebuilt sewers underneath the road systems.. which was really difficult given the way the javascript interpreter did graphics which was "turtle" based and very orientation specific... and i lost energy for the project. but, having a voxel based city is really nice if you want to, say, blow it up.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:48 AM on March 20, 2015


I also contemplated making a FPP about this game. The developer's attitude toward piracy is surprising and wonderful: keep the game patched, updated and even improved on a regular basis, and the paying customers will come. The other day they updated the game not only with performance improvements, but with some of the functionality of a few popular mods rolled right into the game itself -- and a special warning for the users of those mods that automatically de-activates the mod to prevent conflicts. The developers are active in forum discussions with players and are soliciting feedback.

As for the game itself, I manage to play it on a 2011 Win7 desktop without any hardware upgrades, although I have to set most of the graphics options to medium/low. It's worth it because the gameplay experience is so satisfying. Remember the wry sense of humor of SimCity 2000? "Reticulating splines" and all that? This game has it. The modding is a special treat.

Traffic management is a big part of the game, though I find it an appealing challenge. The concept of a functioning, planned traffic system is completely foreign to me.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:03 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with winterhill. I put a few good hours into Cities:Skylines this week and built up a nice little city, but I feel like I've seen and done almost everything already and have little drive to continue building. This isn't helped by the fact that it seems RIDICULOUSLY easy to make money hand over fist with zero crime, no fires, high wealth, etc.

I loved loved loved the Simcity series. So much so that my first preteen (extremely embarrassing) mid-90s website was devoted to SC2k. I believe the strength of the games always arose from Will Wrights devotion to simulating how real cities work - although it was limited by the technology of the day. And now, even though our ability to complicate simulations is exponentially larger, Cities:Skylines really hasn't evolved from the original Simcity. You can zone RCI, the demand for each is related to the others, and traffic flows among them. All crime is solved by more police. Boring! Cities are complicated! Dynamic! Historical! They have character! People get really pissed off if you bulldoze their houses or when a condo is built next to their house.

But maybe I'm asking for too much and I should just be happy that someone is making these kinds of games again.
posted by wollaston at 7:04 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm really excited about trying this game out, my friends have been posting tons of pictures on social media and it looks fun. Apparently there are interesting emergent challenges as your city grows that may or may not have been intended by the game designers, like a "plague" that causes a spike in the death rate and can wipe out a quarter of your population, due to polluted water or something. Also I love all of the detailed in-game data and charts it looks like you can generate, which was actually one of my favorite things about SC4. And the developer's no-nonsense marketing and sales approach is refreshing.
posted by Pfardentrott at 7:12 AM on March 20, 2015


Just bought Skylines (£14.90 from CDKeys!) on the strength of this thread and other reviews, and I'm looking forward to trying it out this weekend. Do people have recommendations for good mods?
posted by adrianhon at 7:18 AM on March 20, 2015


If the positive noise about this game has driven you to purchase it (like I did last night) make sure to check in with Green Man Gaming for discounts before you head to the Steam Store.
posted by thecjm at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2015


the idea that the basic health of a city depends crucially on good traffic patterns seems totally at odds with pretty much any real city: both the absence of good traffic patterns and the willingness of the citizens to continue on (without defenstrating the mayor or riots) despite the terrible traffic.

I live in a city with laughable and sometimes terrifying road patterns caused by building it in a river valley with the topology of a Ripples potato chip but somehow we muddle through.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do people have recommendations for good mods?

First thing I did was add the autosave mod. Don't do what I did and lose three hours of painstaking street-laying to a CTD. (It's possible they've incorporated that as standard now but I haven't checked).
posted by Acey at 8:11 AM on March 20, 2015


ennui.bz: "it can't be a coincidence that traffic engineering such a big part of the 'simcity' genre *and* suburbanized 'urban' planning. "

I'm not entirely certain what you mean by that, but I guess you'd be glad to know that the citizens of Skylines like to walk a lot, and will happily walk long distances instead of driving, if you give them nice pedestrian walkways to walk on. Doesn't sound terribly suburban to me.

I do miss certain real-city things like mixed-use zoning, but I treat this game as a solid framework on top of which all of my city builder hopes will eventually be created - either by modders or CO themselves. I guess I've just internalized the idea that a team of nine people is going to take a little longer to do that than, say, Maxis.
posted by vanar sena at 8:15 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Related: Ian Bogost's recent article Video Games Are Better Without Characters.
posted by oulipian at 8:23 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


If anyone else is confused like I was; Cities: Skylines has nothing to do with the terrible game Cities XL and its sequels. Those bad games were developed and published by Monte Cristo, later Focus Home Interactive. This good game Cities: Skylines is by Colossal Order and published by Paradox. It's effectively a sequel to their Cities in Motion games.

I've also been enjoying Skylines although it's a bit too sandboxy for me. I'm used to being led by the hand through games now, a long extended tutorial as goals are given and new systems are explained to you. Skylines does a nice job of upping the complexity as your city gets bigger but I still feel left with a lack of direction. It's kind of refreshing in a way, a throwback to an older vintage of games.
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]




Just got tucked in to Sips unleashing good ole Killdozer and Paint Sniffer on Donutsville - if this goes the way of his Sims playthroughs, I'll be buying the game by this time next week.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Got excited about this, saw that I'll need to update my OS to play, got bummed again. God dammit.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 8:57 AM on March 20, 2015


Yeah, note that this requires a 64-bit OS. I got caught out on that one, but I decided to just upgrade anyway. This 5 year old PC handles it just fine now.
posted by Acey at 9:03 AM on March 20, 2015


Yeah I considered framing the FPP around Hallikainen specifically and CO more generally but couldn't find enough info online, probably due to the studio's small size and some of the more in-depth coverage of the team being in Finnish or Swedish.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:36 AM on March 20, 2015


This 5 year old PC handles it just fine now.

huh. I'm getting the sense that the hardware requirements on the download page are more of a suggestion. is anyone playing on the equivalent of intel hd 4000?

"it can't be a coincidence that traffic engineering such a big part of the 'simcity' genre *and* suburbanized 'urban' planning. "

I'm not entirely certain what you mean by that


"traffic engineering" is a huge part of modern development planning, especially in places like California. You can see this process in Googletown Mountain View where the planning department has fairly precise traffic (Traffic Demand Management guidelines[pdf]) specifications that a project has to show will be satisfied.

i'm going to say that it's mostly a development out of the great suburban building project, where whole communities were planned out on empty land... much like Simcities. Except that that sort of development process is pretty rare in actual cities. And if cities were really that sensitive to traffic planning, Boston would be a crumbling wasteland filled with riots and blinking no electricity signs.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2015


Traffic totally shapes a city. A while back I saw a Tweet with a traffic map of Portland from 100 years ago, and I swear almost every street they're complaining about is a problem today. (For example, I seem to recall that Sandy is the remnants of a cattle trail, which is why it isn't on a neat grid and cuts through NE at that weird angle, resulting in the worst intersection known the man at Burnside and 6 other streets...)

So far I have been unable to resist the Skylines call, but I don't think I can hold out much longer.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:02 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Traffic totally shapes a city.

see, that's the thing, traffic reflects the shape of the human activities going on in a city. there is a lot of effort in real estate development planning (private or public) to try to shape the human activities by engineering the traffic patterns...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love this game! My husband and I have been excitedly counting down the days before it was released, watching a ton of preview streams. I got pretty comfortable pointing out mistakes people were making in the videos. Then the game launched, we started our first cities, and I restarted several times in a row. I'm not as familiar with city building games as he is, and this one sucked me right in. I love the stylized graphics, the charts (so many charts!), and definitely the modding community.

Very happy to see this fpp, count me in as another person who was yearning to make one and couldn't think of anything to say besides "SO.MUCH.FUN."
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:18 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was so unbelievably disappointed by the last SimCity. Really, all they needed to do was update SC4 with things like curves and whatnot. Soon as I can I'm going to give this puppy a whirl. fffm likes being the god-king of his own city-state!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:20 AM on March 20, 2015


Apparently there are interesting emergent challenges as your city grows that may or may not have been intended by the game designers, like a "plague" that causes a spike in the death rate and can wipe out a quarter of your population, due to polluted water or something.

In my first and only game so far, I was running into electricity shortages and decided to build a dam... which backed up the river current... causing waste from my waste pipe to go UPRIVER and reach my water pump. Half my city got sick and died before I realized what was happening.
posted by skintension at 10:27 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


One feature of Skylines that I haven't encountered before and love is the ability to designate districts. This most obviously allows the creation of certain special industrial zones (farms, timber, etc) but what I think is way more fun about it is you can tinker with the city ordinance policies for individual districts. It's a more subtle way to differentiate neighborhoods than just plopping lots of parks, cops, and schools to make rich areas and just leaving other areas underserved to try and create poorer areas. Since many of the ordinances charge on a per building basis this also allows you to subsidize certain areas without breaking your budget. So now I have a happy little downtown core with mandatory smoke detectors and nice recycling services and such, whereas the grubby residential area out by the highway is grungier and poorer. I haven't messed with the tax policies much yet but I think that can be customized on a district level too. Yay for unfair municipal policy! Problematic in real life sure but lots of fun as god-emperor of my little simcity.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


I just bought this game tonight. It's pretty great. Resolution sucks on my rMBP though...

I think I know what you mean, in that many cross-platform steam games don't really handle retina displays well. But you can fix this yourself by downloading one of the many screen resolution tools that allow you to select the display's native resolution (which isn't normally an option through the display settings). That will allow the game to run at high res, but you'll have to find some way to deal with scaling mouse input.
posted by danny the boy at 10:41 AM on March 20, 2015


Oh man, the dams! I'm not using a map that's all that suited for them right now, but there will come a time when I will build a glorious city and flood it all with much delight.

The Skylines subreddit has been really fun to browse through, too. A great mixture of hilarious screenshots and really beautiful city design in there.
posted by erratic meatsack at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2015


On a related note - I have become addicted to Rimworld thanks to a MeFite who I cannot for the shame of me name at this time. It's an absolute timesink, particularly with the dozens of mods that exist for it. It has quite the Prison Architect art style but the sheer depth of the simulation is beyond addictive. It's only on Alpha 9 and it's $30 but honestly I believe it would be worth twice that for the time I've lost to it already. Go! Buy it! Now!!!!
posted by longbaugh at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


the limitations of [SimCity 2013's] game's much-hyped engine and AI left many players thinking the simulation was fundamentally broken.

My favorite version of this was listening to the Idle Thumbs podcast. They were initially amazed by the demo, praising it, among other things, for its data visualization. They remarked about how incredible it would be for a real-life city planner/manager to have that kind of real-time data about the various utilities, systems, traffic-flows, economics, and other stuff going on in their city.

A couple weeks later as they were coming up against all the disappointing limits everyone else found in the full game they complained, "I don't get enough feedback about what's happening and why. I don't have any sense of what effect, if any, my inputs are having on the outputs of various systems in the game." And I thought: Aha, SimCity is like real-life city management after all.
posted by straight at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


(It'll have been one of these wonderful folks. Hopefully they'll back me up on how good it is.)
posted by longbaugh at 11:40 AM on March 20, 2015


I adore Rimworld, though I suck at it and usually have my colonies destroyed by waves of angry squirrels.

The latest devnotes include the ability for colonists to seek out "fun" by playing chess, billiards, or watching TV, so that should be pretty cool. The developer also has a pretty interesting book on game design . Rimworld and Kerbal Space Program are both examples of how early access can help shape a game. Factorio also comes to mind, though I haven't played it myself for fear of addiction.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:26 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am excited to buy this and make a recreation of Steven Universe's setting Beach City in it, but I'm not sure my laptop, a lowly i3 2mHz with 4 GB RAM, can handle it.
posted by JHarris at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2015




ennui.bz: "Traffic totally shapes a city.

see, that's the thing, traffic reflects the shape of the human activities going on in a city. there is a lot of effort in real estate development planning (private or public) to try to shape the human activities by engineering the traffic patterns...
"

Growth Coalition Theory...
posted by symbioid at 2:07 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am excited to buy this and make a recreation of Steven Universe's setting Beach City in it, but I'm not sure my laptop, a lowly i3 2mHz with 4 GB RAM, can handle it.

My wife's i3 desktop with 6GB RAM and integrated graphics could run it with the video settings turned all the way down, but it was definitely slow. I imagine it would have been unplayable with a large city. We rectified the situation by buying a new computer (i7 with 16GB RAM and a GTX 745... overkill, but the game runs smooth as silk now).

I'm a longtime SimCity fan who mostly gave up on the franchise after SimCity 4. I didn't even consider buying the most recent release. It just wasn't the SimCity that I wanted SimCity to become.

Cities: Skylines, however? It's the SimCity that I wanted SimCity to become. And the developer involvement and burgeoning mod community means it's only going to get better over time. Wonderful game so far.
posted by jal0021 at 2:19 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Today, I spent $30 to find out that my 2.8GHZ MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM is a piece of shit.
posted by mikeand1 at 7:40 PM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Rightfully or not, I've always found the Cities in Motion series to be CPU hogs. I get the feeling that they don't spend much time optimizing either the algorithms that run the city itself, or the renderer when dealing with the thousands of little objects in the scene.
posted by smidgen at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2015


Today, I spent $30 to find out that my 2.8GHZ MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM is a piece of shit.

I’ve been watching lots of Cities: Skylines videos over the last couple of weeks and looked into what I’d need to run it decently. The graphics processor seems to be the common limiting factor.

The developers say they don’t support Intel integrated video, which means a lot of lower-end Macs and Windows machines will have problems. Feedback from people (both Mac and Windows) who are relying on an Intel GPU or an old discrete video chip are having trouble, with the game either unplayable or only so on lowest graphics settings. The Intel Iris Pro GPU seems to be an exception to this (gauging by message board posts), though obviously the performance is not up to a modern high-end gaming GPU.

Anyone with a computer with both Intel integrated graphics and a discrete GPU chip should make sure in their system settings that the computer is not in a power-conservation mode which causes it to use the Intel GPU.

My late 2009 iMac (which has a poor Intel integrated GPU) doesn’t have a chance of being able to run this. I’m overdue for a new computer and now I will probably spend a bit more money getting a better GPU than I otherwise would.

Looking forward to being able to play Cities: Skylines and Sir, You Are Being Hunted someday.
posted by D.C. at 9:34 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


How do I work out if this will play on my computer?
posted by alby at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Been watching this guy's let's play videos.

This is tempting me to buy a new computer, godammit.


I am kind of surprised there aren't some intellectual property issues with Sim City. I mean, as others have said, this looks like what SC should have become.
posted by Trochanter at 7:17 AM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, note that this requires a 64-bit OS.

Wellll...sort of.
I have a 64-bit OS, but it's not the latest, shiny-new version of the 64-bit OS. So, even though I have a 64-bit OS, I'm still outside the sysreqs. Sucks to be me, I guess.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:20 AM on March 21, 2015


Today, I spent $30 to find out that my 2.8GHZ MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM is a piece of shit.

It's probably worth noting that OpenGL/3D drivers in OS X tend to be old and slow and games run significantly slower in comparison to Windows (in some games the difference can be up to 30% FPS on same hardware). That's why I personally use BootCamp to run games on my MacBook, because the performance of games is significantly better (even though there's more fan noise as well). Worth a try if you already have BC installed.
posted by mavrik at 2:14 PM on March 21, 2015


How do I work out if this will play on my computer?

Tell us what computer you have!
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on March 21, 2015


Tell us what computer you have!

It's a Dell M6700 "workstation laptop".
posted by alby at 3:03 PM on March 22, 2015


alby, your laptop appears to meet the minimum specs (as long as you have enough RAM), so it should work.

(Not that I'm taking any responsibility if it doesn't, though!)
posted by vanar sena at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


The system requirements can be found on this page. Here's the minimum for PC:
OS: Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1 (64-bit)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, 3.0GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+, 3.2GHz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: nVIDIA GeForce GTX 260, 512 MB or ATI Radeon HD 5670, 512 MB (Does not support Intel Integrated Graphics Cards)
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Hard Drive: 4 GB available space
posted by Acey at 12:16 PM on March 23, 2015


I am back at work and trying to pay attention, but my hindbrain is trying to figure out how best to add more industrial space to my new town. And how to design microparks for smaller spaces to fit them into those weird little 1x1 and 1x2 zones that popup all the time.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:38 PM on March 23, 2015


I am kind of surprised there aren't some intellectual property issues with Sim City.

I'm happy there aren't, and there shouldn't be. You can't copyright an idea.
posted by JHarris at 1:43 PM on March 23, 2015


The real successor to the Sim City franchise, of course, was Starcraft. I just wish there was a way you could set up the first part of the game and push a button that said 'Keep doing this for [the equivalent of] 6 hours" so you could just jump ahead and start fighting.
posted by msalt at 4:51 PM on March 23, 2015


msalt rather than post an impassioned rant about the philosophical and design differences between simulation and RTS games I'll just suggest you might enjoy Company of Heroes or Dawn of War II, both of which prioritize tactics and combat over the relatively simple economics and basebuilding mechanics.
posted by Wretch729 at 5:32 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I couldn't resist, and snagged a copy from CDKeys yesterday for under $19. Runs sort of poorly on my 2011 iMac (which has a beast of a CPU, so I suppose the bottleneck is the outdated Radeon HD 6770m), but man it's a load of fun. As always, though, I find it really hard to get past the idea that everything has to be just right from the start or the whole enterprise is sunk.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:15 AM on March 24, 2015


All these preview vids made me so itchy to build a city that I plugged in my old copy of Simcity 4. Wow. The isometric angles feel so primitive and restricting compared to watching people zoom around in Skylines. Plus, I'd forgotten how all the roads have to be square to the map.

I want Cities Skylines. I wannit I wannit I wannit

Guys, if I buy a new box, can I install XP on it? Or on another hand, when did Windows stop with the commitment to legacy? I have a bunch of old programs, like Office 97, that run like a rocket on XP, and I don't want to start over. Did/does windows 7 still support the old stuff? (also, just generally, how are 7 and 8?)
posted by Trochanter at 6:58 AM on March 25, 2015


Microsoft doesn't support XP anymore, so you'll be asking for trouble. Win7 is not bad, Win8 is probably best avoided, and Win10 is theoretically coming this summer. Oh, and I think C:S requires a 64-bit OS, so unless you have the 64-bit WinXP (which I recall being really wonky driver-wise), you'll definitely want something else.

There are now over 21,000 items listed on Steam Workshop, everything from color lookup tables to small blue police box to a mod that makes fire spread, and an overhaul of the mass transit UI. I started creating a map based on terrain.party data from satellites in order to create a Portland, OR map and it turns out there are at least 6 in place already. All in what, under two weeks? My goodness.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:23 AM on March 25, 2015


Started playing seriously last night and two hours flew by before I realized that it was time for bed. Fun game although I miss some of the quirkiness of SimCity although each version of that game was a little more boring than the previous one.
posted by octothorpe at 12:14 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wretch729: thanks! We're mostly playing Civilization V variants in our house these days, which seems to better balance the building/using timelines not to mention fighting vs. other activities. I'll check out those games though.

Actually curious about your rant -- StarCraft immediately struck me as a Sim type game when I saw it.
posted by msalt at 4:16 PM on March 25, 2015


They're radically different both practically and philosophically. There really isn't any comparison beyond the fact that you build stuff in both game types.
posted by Justinian at 6:27 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, my admittedly ignorant perspective is that in both you start processes that proceed without you - something impossible before computers, and absent from other games. Or maybe it's not absent but just visualized, and I get mesmerized by seeing little figures moving around like I'm watching a movie.
posted by msalt at 6:36 PM on March 25, 2015


Getting this as a direct result of EA's incompetent bungling of Sim City makes me want to grow a Ron Swanson mustache, clap my hands above my head and cheer "Capitalism!" There are almost a DOZEN major deal breaker errors in Sim City 2013 that Cities Skylines knocks out of the park

I can't believe this game is less than a month old and the modding, update, and custom building community is already so robust. The one thing I would gripe about is the learning curve for public transportation and traffic management is immense. In one way, this is the challenge that makes the game fun, especially in the mid-game where 4X and Simulation gems tend to get boring. But on the other hand, I'm spending a lot of time not playing and reading the wiki instead.

Note: I'm running this on a Mac with integrated graphics... buuut it is an overpowered Hackintosh that I built last year so I don't know how this translates to all you all with MacBooks and Mac Minis...
posted by midmarch snowman at 5:20 AM on March 26, 2015


Runs sort of poorly on my 2011 iMac

Just to update for anybody in the same situation: I'm a dummy who never plays games on my Mac, and it turns out that running fullscreen at a non-native resolution made things sort of wonky. Also the Steam Overlay thing. Running fullscreen at native resolution is good enough, and windowed is a little better.

Also I have no idea what I'm doing. Which is great.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:36 AM on March 26, 2015


msalt - Well rant is perhaps too strong, but here's my take:
(I’m trying to be brief since I'm theoretically working, so I am inevitably going to oversimplify and probably leave something out.)

A lot of the genre differentiation in video games happened in the late 1980s/early 1990s as games evolved beyond the relatively simple arcade style games (e.g. PacMan, Centipede) and sidescrollers (e.g. Mario, Sonic). If we were building an evolutionary tree for video games, I do agree that the branches for strategy games, simulations, and "god games" (to the extent that that's still a genre) would be closer together than to first person shooters and other fighting games like that. There are lots of different ways to slice up genre in gaming, just like in any media, and of course these categories are to a large extent socially constructed and can be subjective. The wikipedia page on this has more info if you're interested, and the template box at the bottom is actually a decent summation of how game genres and subgenres break down.

I would characterize genre in video games as being defined by the player's role and goals in a game, which is related to but distinct from what a player actually does in any given game. So for instance I would differentiate an action game that requires fast reaction times and hand eye coordination from a role-playing game that emphasizes the story and the player's decisions in interacting with other characters and advancing the plot, even if both games have similar combat mechanics (though often they don’t, precisely because the goals are different). This is complicated by the fact that many games blend genre elements and that art and story often take on prominence even in non-RPG genres. Starcraft itself, in fact, was lauded in part because of the attention given to the game’s backstory and narrative even though it was perfectly possible to play the game for hours and totally ignore the story.

So finally to the question at hand: what differentiates Starcraft specifically and strategy games in general from Sim City, or simulation games in general? After all, many strategy games involve building and maintaining an economy of some kind, simulated by the game’s code. It’s also not accurate to say strategy is always about combat; as you note the Civilization series and games like it provide other ways to win (by amassing the most money, or having the most attractive culture, etc.). There’s a genre-bending game getting buzz right now called Offworld Trading Company that is actually entirely focused on the economic simulation and has barely any combat, but I would still categorize it as primarily a competitive strategy game.

The difference is again, in my opinion, in the goals and role of the player in the game. In Starcraft the goal of the player is to win in competition against either the AI or a human opponent. The in-game economy is modeled in the service of this goal. The role of the player in service of this goal is to build a base for the sole purpose of providing the support for an army in order to win the competition. Though I too have been mesmerized by just watching the little figures run around a base, that is not the goal of the game and thus not the primary role for the player. (Try doing this in competitive starcraft on B.net and see how long you last.) Even strategy games that do not focus on combat do have a win condition; they're about winning a competition.

Simulations are different, or at least construction and management sims like Sim City are. I’m going to break down the simulation genre a little bit because several different things get lumped together. Sports sims (e.g. Madden) are a huge subgenre and are all about competition; they model real world sports to allow you to compete and win. There are also vehicle sims like racing games and flight sims that exist on a sort of spectrum between sim and action games; generally the more attention paid to the fidelity of the sim the less competitive and “gamey” these games get, with something like what actual pilots use to train being on one end of the spectrum and a shoot em up like flight MMO World of Warplanes being the other end.

In Sim City and games like it the main goal isn’t to win in a competition, it’s to create or model something. This line, from a source cited on the sim game Wikipedia page, is a good encapsulation: “the player's goal is not to defeat an enemy, but to build something within the context of an ongoing process.”

It can be possible to lose (in simple ways like going bankrupt in Sim City or in hilarious ways) but it’s generally not possible to win, except in how “winning” is defined by the player herself. Maybe winning in Sim City is building a massive megalopolis but it could just as easily be in building an intricate railroad network, or by building a quaint little town. Life simulator The Sims has ways of progressing but how to steer sims’ lives is up to the player. These are, as Maxis founder Will Wright used to describe them, sandbox toys. They let the player create something and build a narrative in their imagination.

None of this is to say that sim games don’t require strategic thinking or that strategy games can’t allow emergent narratives in the player’s imagination. (Civilization is a great example; how many of us have kept playing after "winning" just to tinker with our empire?) Overall, however, the primary intended goals and roles of the player in each genre are different.

Whew!
posted by Wretch729 at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I may have done msalt a disservice by not engaging more directly with the point about processes that proceed without the player, but I started to and it threatened to turn my already overlong comment into a novel. My hyper-compressed response is that if you have a process that is proceeding without your direct input in Starcraft you are probably losing the game, and that this is not true in Sim City.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


in both you start processes that proceed without you

I totally get where you're coming from, and like games like this. Create the components of a system and then let the simulation run, see what emerges. As everyone's pointed out of course Starcraft is totally different from Simcity. One's a two player RTS, the other is a single player city builder. But I think your insight into what the two games share is much more interesting than the obvious differences between the two. I'd dearly love more games that have this autonomous / emergent aspect to them. It's very hard to engineer a fun game out of building blocks in this way; look to Spore for an example of a grand failure.

Cities: Skylines is really impressive. I've been struggling to play it because it's not so much a game; there's very little in the way of goals or challenges shaping your play. It's just a big open sandbox. Which is exactly what everyone loves about it, and I agree, but I've gotten so lazy with games leading me by the nose it's hard to remember that sometimes you can just have fun. Like: I've been stressing out about how to lay down 8x8 grids to maximize density. To which my MeFightClub friends reply "well here's how to do that, but it sure looks prettier if you leave a little negative space". Optimize for beauty, not min/maxing the game.

I'm confused about the game's performance. My 2011 iMac with an AMD 6970M GPU plays the game quite nicely at full resolution. My 2012 iMac with an NVidia 660M is struggling mightily to render. The older Mac has the nicer GPU, but the CPU is slower. Most games run about the same on the two machines, not sure why this one is so different.
posted by Nelson at 9:45 AM on March 26, 2015


Nelson, it's possible that the game is using the GPU as part of its computing power in order to make the simulation calculations faster. In that case, it's easy to see a situation where they saturate the GPU (for vectorizable calculations) but not the CPU.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:49 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much, Wretch729 and Nelson. Fascinating stuff. I dare not ask how you would classify Minecraft, for fear of getting you fired, but that seems obvious to me; it's really computer Legos. Oh but the exploring too which is fascinating. And some fighting. OK, never mind.

Creating self-sustaining ecosystems (technosystems?) is such an advanced way of looking at the world, compared to 19th-20th century static inputs and outputs. I have a pet theory that Millenials (who play SimCity) will have 100 times the understanding of issues such as urban planning as Boomers and GenXers, just because these games teach that sophistication so much better than any textbook I ever read (and make it infinitely more fun to learn.)

Of course it all goes back to emulating nature which was sitting right in front of us the whole time.
posted by msalt at 12:46 AM on March 27, 2015


Oh Minecraft is pretty easy, for all that it bends genre a bit. Open-world sandbox game, a subgenre of construction and management simulations. It has RPG and action-adventure elements, but no explicit narrative and no way to "win" the game. It's a genre that seems increasingly popular, perhaps driven by Minecraft's massive success. Dwarf Fortress or Terraria or Gnomoria would all be examples of this as well.

I too am interested in if/how a generation raised on more sophisticated games might enage with the world differently, but I also would be cautious. The simulations modeled in video games have the same problems as models used by scientists; they rely on layers of abstraction and built-in implicit assumptions. For all its emergent complexity Sim City 4 (like its predecessors) can be run on an Excel spreadsheet if you take away the graphical interface. It really is just inputs and outputs underneath, even as we as players invent a narrative to go along in our heads.

Newer games are more sophisticated, but have the same fundamental limitations. Cities: Skylines for instance moved to an agent-based simulation (like SimCity 2013) rather than a statistical one for many things, but still models things like crime using a limited set of basic assumptions. The problem is since these assumptions aren't relevant to the general enjoyment of the game players are not encouraged to reflect much on them (I mean some of us do, but it's not forced by the game). So the simulation superficially teaches us that low education causes higher crime, but doesn't dig into the underlying sociological assumptions that drive that model and how they might be limited or mistaken.

On the other hand I firmly believe games like this can be the spark that start people thinking about this stuff, which seems like a Good Thing.

There's a bit more discussion about this in this review:
When a game is capable of this level of simulation, it’s hard not to notice the things that it purposefully doesn’t simulate with the same care. Crime, for example, is still as crudely-calculated as it’s been in every other game – as a combination of education, policing and general happiness, measured systemically. Even though every individual citizen has an education level, you can’t identify criminals from among the citizenry, just the houses that have been burgled by the abstraction. Each simulator’s sandbox has an edge that defines its ambition, and this is just one example.
Actually the critical discussion of the advantages and drawbacks of assumptions made in the Sim City games would make an interesting FPP on its own!
posted by Wretch729 at 8:31 AM on March 27, 2015


Not only an FPP, but it would make a great article in some place like The Believer.

I've worried too about the assumptions built into these -- it would be simple to make a self-selecting "liberal" or "conservative" version of SimCity.

on the other hand, I'm 53, and was taught using ridiculously static and obviously flawed models at some name brand schools. It was news in the 1990s when people started suggesting that consumers make arguably irrational economic decisions! Classical economics has baked into it the assumption that power relations don't influence economic markets short of monopolistic situations which is a highly political chocie -- yet anything else is called "Marxist" or "radical."
posted by msalt at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2015


So the simulation superficially teaches us that low education causes higher crime, but doesn't dig into the underlying sociological assumptions that drive that model and how they might be limited or mistaken.

GOD MODE >> DISASTERS >> ALIEN INVASION / EARTHQUAKE / CATASTROPHIC INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL COLLAPSE
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:18 PM on March 27, 2015


Heh, yes and then there's Dr. Vu!
posted by Wretch729 at 5:23 PM on March 27, 2015


Do not play this game it will eat your life oh god help me ...traffic's backed up over by the forestry district....
posted by digitalprimate at 7:48 AM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish I knew how much time I spent this weekend customizing the bus colors so I could tell at a glance which route was which. Or renaming every cargo terminal, school, hospital, and police station...

Also playing this game has caused me to see my own city in a new way--now as I drive, I wonder how I would reshape the traffic or replicate it in-game. (Though they need to have streetcars to really make it work. The current passenger train setup is kinda useless, though rails are fantastic for transporting goods.)

I also had a very visceral reaction that surprised me--when I built a ton of industry over an oil resource, the resulting ant-like frenzy of cargo trucks and tankers made me feel bad for the cims that had to live and work near there.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Rock Paper Shotgun creates a new award for Cities: Skylines. Well, at least that game wins the first ever Game of the Month Award.

Interview with Colossal Order’s CEO Mariina Hallikainen.


Pretty neat story all around, really.


On the home front: I was at Best Buy standing in front of a new shiny $1000 computer with my money ready, but a clerk wouldn't help me and I changed my mind. waffle waffle waffle...

posted by Trochanter at 7:01 AM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I got it. Great game. Fascinating to think how much it's doing. Each vehicle has a place to go.

Anxious to try making my own buildings etc.

Needs more lane control. No left turn, no traffic lights... but all in all, the same thrill as the early Simcity games.

I'm going to try Cities in Motion as well. Those cities, on the Let's Play vids look even more beautiful, plus day/night cycling.

Steam seems like a bit of a pig, though.

PS: I heard that that Gula fellow who used to work for Maxis and had been building assets has been hired by Colossal Order, so that's neat, too.
posted by Trochanter at 11:20 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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