Citybound Still Inbound, Latest Devlog Is Hypnotic

It should be no secret that I like devlogs, and while DevLog Watch might have gone to the column graveyard in the sky (or it might just be resting), I haven’t stopped digging around for videos of fascinating, newly in-development games. Citybound remains one of my favourites; a city-building simulation game that aims to provide the large cities and offline play that SimCity lacked. Its developer has been documenting its progress with weekly videos, and the latest shows new traffic merging behaviour for the simulation’s cars.

It’s the kind of tiny detail that makes devlogs fascinating, and its mesmerising to watch in action. The video is embedded below.

Some of you will think this is boring – it’s just little squares avoiding one another, after all – but I can’t get enough of this kind of detail about the making of games. I like to see sausage is made; the thousands of little things that need to be programmed in order to bring even simple games to life.

Videos like this are obviously great marketing for an unfinished game, purely in the sense of raising awareness, but I also wonder if people would have been more forgiving of SimCity’s obvious deficits if its engine had been publicly talked about as it was created from the ground-up, instead of being revealed and advertised after-the-fact. When Citybound is finally released, there’ll be no illusions about what it can and can’t do, and what it does well will appear all the more impressive to those who saw the effort and care that went into it firsthand via various livestreams and video updates. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure, but look at all the little squares coolly avoiding each other!

Citybound is broadly similar to its obvious inspiration: you’ll place down roads, zones and then manage the urban world that springs up. It has slight differences though in how you place those roads and zones, and the test cities shown so far are truly sprawling metropoli rather than dinky toy towns. There’s a lot more detail at the game’s FAQ, with an alpha build (previously?) planned for next month.

20 Comments

  1. Sandepande says:

    Looks like it could be useful in real life, too.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I can’t wait until computer driven cars are common. Then I will hack into them and force people to drive politely! New Jersey will become a haven of safe traffic FOREVER!!!!

      AHAHAHAHAHA excuse me I have to commute to work now.

      • realitysconcierge says:

        Just think about how traffic jams will be much less prevalent because you won’t have impatient drivers whom don’t have the foresight to not brake heavily!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    What’s with the sudden lack of lovely tasty roundups Mr. Smith :(

    Freeware Gardeners Question Time lasted all of once, and now one of the few columns which keeps me occupied for a good few hours of a days work has gone too.

    Sniff

  3. Raiyne says:

    The transparency of the process definitely gives the product a more human touch, and would most certainly be welcome in contrast to the white-washed, PR/Marketing buzzword filled trailers, interviews and previews that big companies usually do. I think people are starting to get tired of being force fed marketing bullshit (yes, even some of the common people), and we’re moving in a different direction in the way we interact and consume information as people in an age where there’s too much info.

    The only reason why big companies continue the charade of bullshitting their audience is because (1) they don’t know shit about shit – e.g. blindly tacking on ‘features’ or whatever; (2) they know they’re full of shit – i.e. when design conflicts with what audience wants, intentional (F2P games for example).

  4. Marnit says:

    Didn’t sim city 2013 have engine showcase videos explaining things similar to this though?
    I distinctly remember the workings of the engine being the only thing we knew of the game at some time…

    • anselm_eickhoff says:

      The difference being that my community has a much more active role in the design process. Big parts of the implementation of pathfinding on multilane roads are based on the very elaborate and detailed suggestions of people in the Something Awful Forums and elsewhere, for example.

  5. jeeger says:

    Noooo! More Devlog Watch!

  6. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Getting a distinct Subversion vibe from that title picture.
    apart from the big bit that says Citybound, that was a dead give-away.

  7. TazzAtNL says:

    Citybound was also one of my favorites, but i doubt it will reach a beta or finished state anytime ever.
    So much time is spend on the tiniest detail. No way Anselm can finish this on his own. It will take years.

    I will however keep following his progress. It looks great!

    • anselm_eickhoff says:

      I spend this much time on every detail. The game is nothing but details. You are right that it probably takes years to complete – but a playable core should be achievable much earlier.

      • TazzAtNL says:

        Thanks for your reaction! I can’t wait to play your game!

  8. AUS_Doug says:

    This could be the realisation of a dream; Playing SimCity without acknowledging the existence of post ‘Battlefield: Vietnam’ EA

  9. Cross says:

    I have to say, that i am really liking how the simulation and core gameplay are shaping up so far, but unless those aesthetics get seriously changed, i doubt it could hold me for long. I’m good at suspension of disbelief, but this abstract style is a bit much to ask.

  10. a3257669 says:

    I was excited to watch this guy stream video of his development process, thinking I’d get some insight into how large scale projects are handled in Javascript. What I saw was pause for concern however. The project, even in these early stages, appears to be becoming an unmaintainable mess. There are challenges when scaling Javascript, and it’s harder than in some other languages, but it’s not impossible. The techniques exist and are widely used in the community. The developer didn’t appear to be using any of these techniques to do so however, and is amassing a huge debt that will need to be paid off before long, in the process of a big refactor.

    I wish him the best of luck of course, and I’m glad to see someone so willing to be so open with their process.

    • anselm_eickhoff says:

      I understand your concern. I used to believe religiously in clean code, best practices, preventing technical debt.

      As it turns out, though, when you do something as ridicolous as creating a full city sim on your own, you can’t do that. You can’t guess the perfect architecture, often you don’t even know exactly what you are trying to build.

      All the different systems are so interconnected that you can’t afford to build each one separately, with nice and clean delineations. You have to throw together rough sketches of everything, make them work together, using dirty tricks if necessary.

      Now at least you have an idea of what you are trying to build. You start reimplementing or completely swapping out whole game subsystems (which is much easier and faster than you would expect), and slowly everything becomes more robust and reasonable.

      • a3257669 says:

        You’re completely right of course, early optimisation is one of the quickest ways to doom a project. I guess the advantage of doing it this way in javascript is that everything is accessible, so debugging should be rather straightforward.

        Out of interest, how do you intend to distribute the finished product? I saw Game Dev Story used link to github.com to wrap it up in a simple executable.

        • anselm_eickhoff says:

          node-webkit exactly what I’ll use for distribution

  11. anselm_eickhoff says:

    Developer here, thanks for the coverage!
    Feel free to ask me any questions you have :)