In The Zone: Cities Skylines Screens Are Pretty

City builders are great because they’re little ant farms you can tinker with endlessly, and at their best – say, in SimCity 4 – they propel themselves forward infinitely because they can never be perfectly balanced. Devlogs are great meanwhile because they can force us to reconsider design decisions we’d otherwise take for granted, which is what the latest developer diary for Cities: Skylines does while discussing why the game will let players place most buildings via zoning rather than individually.

It never occured to me that they might do it any other way, but the devlog forum post explains:

While discussing the possible ways to build a city a few ways emerged: placing buildings individually and zoning. While individual placing of buildings seemed interesting and in theory allowed the player to create the exact city they wanted it became clear that creating large cities would be difficult and cumbersome. The sheer amount of buildings needed to place would turn the game into an editor rather than a city builder. Also problems would arise with the needs of the city conflicting with the artistic visions of the player: the player would want to build 10 tenements in an area while the game calculated the city required only 3. Communicating this kind of information that is always changing as the game progresses would be impractical. And as the city grows and new technological levels are reached, the player would need to manually upgrade all the buildings in the city which in the end would mean going through thousands upon thousands of buildings.

This sounds a lot like the way Cities: Skylines more famous rival works – SimCity games work via zoning, and similarly split those zones into residential, commercial and industrial. Cities: Skyline instead aims to differentiate itself – from the most recent iteration of SimCity, at least – by allowing players to create a vast urban sprawl instead of a tiny tinker toy town. I like the look of the other screenshots, too.


  1. BTAxis says:

    One thing I’ve noticed with the zoning in this game is that all zones are four squares deep, counting from the road. That seems to suggest there are no buildings with very large floor plans.

    • Bugamn says:

      If done well that doesn’t need to be true. Afterlife had one square zones, but when many zones of the same type were together they could merge into one building.

  2. Ejia says:

    I thought the plopping of all buildings instead of zoning for them was one of the reasons SimCity Societies wasn’t so well-received? Not that I know from first-hand experience, though, since I never played it. So far SC4 is still everything I need in a city sim, especially with the absolutely gigantic custom maps out there. Well, everything except for real, above sea level surface water.

    Does Cities: Skylines also feature full terraforming tools? Then I’m in!

    • Lolsmurf says:

      Terraforming will be included. At least that’s what they said in their livestream.

      Looks promising.

  3. Granath says:

    Good idea and the zones should develop. One of the biggest failures in Cities XL was that zones didn’t upgrade or downgrade – they would just either be empty or full. It made the city feel lifeless.

    • Damien Stark says:

      Man, and I came in here specifically to say “I love the way they do zoning in Cities XL”

      But your criticism isn’t wrong – if you have a big low-density zone in the middle of your city and want to upgrade it to medium-density, you have to totally smash the whole district and re-zone, which is pretty disruptive and not especially realistic…

  4. Smashbox says:

    I really hope this includes complex transport options, a la NAM and RH mod for simcity 4

    • Ejia says:

      Oh dear god, the NAM. Talk about drowning in a sea of options. To this day I have no idea how to connect things to other things.

    • LogicalDash says:

      This game is built upon the engine from Cities in Motion 2, so uh, I’m guessing there will be some … crossover of features there.

  5. SpacemanSpliff says:

    It occurs to me that these city sims never have driveways or parking lots.

    • JMunthe says:

      Cities: Skylines will have driveways and parking lots :)

      The big reason you can’t see it is due to the zoning colours overlapping that graphic while zoning

  6. stoner says:

    Zoning? So…SimCity then?

    • TK-093 says:

      Well, zoning is how real cities are built. It’s not like SimCity invented that.

      • BTAxis says:

        Unless you’re the Chinese government and you plop down a whole city from scratch, before people even move there.


    You can do either in Cities XL! Briefly, before a memory leak crashes the game.

    • Damien Stark says:

      Yes, I love the implementation of zones in Cities XL, and the fact that they *allow* the giant cities that everyone was pissed to see gone from SimCity. But by the time you actually have some large cities, the game kind of falls over and chokes.

  8. Dave L. says:

    I’m still kind of shocked how closely they’ve mimicked the look and feel of SimCity (5). Same post-process tilt shift effect, same UI, on the livestream they did the drag and plop sound effects for roads was exactly the same.

    If SimCity hadn’t ended up being so broken, this would be getting a lot more hate for being so flagrant a clone.