Cities: Skylines Is A Game That Exists And That I Want

This is one of those game trailers and developer diaries which doesn’t contain any new information. We already knew that Cities: Skylines was a city builder, that it was coming out in 2015, and that it was aiming to offer sprawling metropolises where the previous SimCity offered only small towns.

But I don’t mind an occasional, ‘Hey, remember that we exist?’ from a game I’m looking forward to, and Skylines qualifies. Look how pretty it is.

I could also watch traffic simulation for hours. I live on a somewhat busy road and can often be found staring out at the commuters, making rude gestures at any of the drivers who glance up towards my window.

I’m a rare apologist for the previous SimCity game, which I thought was pretty and pretty fun even in spite of its reduced size and online-only shenanigans, but I can’t deny that I’m relishing the opportunity to return to large scale mayoral management. My favourite SimCity game was the fourth, and a core part of that was that different parts of your urban projects felt as if they had their own personalities. That was mostly projection on my part – I would resent an area I was struggling to balance and then make its inhabitants suffer – but even that was impossible when there was no longer distance separating the different parts town.

I’m looking forward to re-naming disticts in Cities: Skylines to Buttsville, introducing needlessly punishing edicts for the local Buttonians to follow, and then burning down all their houses to start again.


  1. cpy says:

    Is it so hard to ask for a good city simulator? I have high hopes for Cities Skylines and mediocre hope for CXXL.

    • eggy toast says:

      According to a recent interview “your high-rise might have only 12 households” which pretty much murdered any interest I had. I thought it was disappointing when they said the game was only going to be able to have 1 million people, and I thought it was disappointing again when they said mixed commercial/residential buildings were only going to be cosmetic.

      What happened to being able to build Copenhagen?

      • 2late2die says:

        That doesn’t sound so bad. At the end of the day they are limited by the hardware after all – would it be awesome to allow for a 10 million city? Yeah of course. But a million is still pretty big and given how much detail they’re putting into the various systems (dynamic water, districts, traffic, etc.) I can’t really complain.

        Besides, Paradox is the kind of company that I could see in a couple of years releasing a patch to bump up the max number of “sims”.

  2. Kollega says:

    About the only two things I don’t like from what was revealed about Skylines so far are that you can only play one city, as opposed to SimCity 4’s enormous regions, and that the farms are for some reason constrained to tiny plots as opposed to being realistically huge. The rest of it looks just fine, and most likely I will be buying it shortly after release.

    • cpy says:

      Yea, that’s what got me worried too. Tiny garden plots labeled as farms, and i really think that wood industry will be jokingly small plot with 4 trees growing in back yard.

      • HyenaGrin says:

        I will admit that although I am generally excited about the game, seeing the farm plots was a little ridiculous. It seems like a pretty big step back on SC4, in a pretty obvious way.

        I’m not sure why they decided to do this when they have a pretty decent zoning mechanic, but y’know. I probably will not mess with them unless I have to, they just look silly. =(

  3. lordcooper says:

    I never really got on with the regions in SC4 because it made it so damn easy/tempting to set up a 100 powerplant slum that takes in everyones garbage and provides power and water to all. Give me something on that scale without chopping it up into arbitrary regions and I’ll be a happy man.

  4. mtomto says:

    One of my concerns is that CiM was below mediocre and CiM2 was a disaster. But if CO manage to copy enough gameplay/features from simcity it might work. Only reason the new simcity sucked was because of the small maps and the fake simulation.

    Simulation is king in this genre – in my opinion anyways. If the simulation is too fake, then replayability is dead. I am thinking traffic, citizens etc here. I hope people aren’t just moving into a new building every night – I really hated simcity when I figured out that houses were just containers that anyone could “live” in. I reeeeaaaally hope Cities: Skylines doesn’t do this.

  5. AngoraFish says:

    The giant fields of grass, with a scattered bush or two, running between tiny house blocks that tightly hug two slightly offset roadways, are a real turn off. (Not to mention dozens of uneven corners where their arbitrary standard block size inevitably ends up leaving ugly gaps of featureless green.)

    Surely technology has advanced at least far enough that we might see a few tessellated development lots instead of thoroughly implausible (and completely unusable) nature strips along the rear of people’s fence lines, or along all four corners of every single even slightly angled intersection?

    City architecture also looks pretty monotonal and, well, the jury remains out on the quality of the transport simulation, although multiple spaghetti intersections surrounded by acres of green, as well as dangerous vehicle merging behaviour at T-intersections, don’t leave me feeling optimistic at all.

    Tragically, I’m not seeing anything in the gameplay videos I’ve seen that I haven’t seen many times before, so I can’t for the life of me understand the level of optimisim displayed by articles such as this one, which I can only assume are based on hopes about what might be rather than what it is that we’re actually being shown.

    • celticdr says:

      From what I understand with these city simulators is that the power of technology (i.e. how big is your CPU) is tied up in simulating thousands of agents (the people that live in your virtual city) – that is precisely the limitation of technology in this genre.

      Otherwise I’m sure the features you want in a game could easily be implemented at the cost of city size limits – arguably a turn off for most people who play city builder games, as evidenced by the biggest complaint with the latest Sim City game – it didn’t let you build a true metropolis.

      They will inch closer to reality though, it takes time and Moore’s law to get there but it will happen, be patient… or not, what do I care?

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Most of AngoraFish’s criticism is stuff that can be computed when you lay out the plots and roads, and doesn’t have to be recomputed after that. Computational limitations are not the issue here.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Indeed. 2D tessellation has been around since last century. All you have to compute is the lot boundaries and the maximum building size that can be fit into the middle. It’s not even in the same ballpark as calculating 5000+ independent actors constantly moving to different locations 24 hours a day, plus their power, sewerage and pollution inputs and outputs.

  6. cesarcotta says:

    Does anybody else find themselves wanting to buy a game based on how hot the developers are?

  7. eggy toast says:

    From what I’ve read and seen I am not looking forward to this game at all. The farms are horrible the airport is horrible the building variation is non-existant

    I’ve been following this game for a while (been on my Steam wishlist since Oct!) but honestly I think I’ll be more surprised if it turns out to be something I want to buy once it’s finally out, than I will be if I just quietly wind up removing it from the list.

  8. The First Door says:

    Wow, people sure are down on this game around these parts!

    I’m really quite looking forward to it from what they’ve released so far. I’m hoping for more information on their water simulation, but It seems like it will be quite fun just to play about with the traffic already!

  9. 2late2die says:

    I’m surprised at the level of negativity towards this game in the comments. Is it the perfect city simulation? No, but it’s damn sight better than anything we’ve gotten in, oh I don’t know, a decade or two! Come on guys. Look, we still need to acknowledge performance limitations – we just haven’t yet reached a point where we can simulate a multimillion citizen city with full traffic and infrastructure simulation while also having all unique buildings, cars, etc.

    (BTW, regarding “City architecture also looks pretty monotonal” from @AngoraFish – have you seen some of the architecture here in Canada and US? If anything the game might be depressingly realistic when it comes to that :) And yes, I know European cities are much better in that regard, but my point is, it seems a pretty small issue IMO, anyway…)

    Personally I’m looking forward to Skylines. It looks like it strikes a good balance between fun and pretty, and having a good simulation with a lot of agents. And I have to say Paradox is fast becoming one of my favourite developers. I’ve known about Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4 for a while now, but only recently did I finally take the time to sit down and dig into CK2 (I spent some time with EU4 a little while back, but at the end decided to really dig deep into CK2 first) and while it took a while to understand it well (I’m sure I’m still missing a bunch of stuff) once I did it’s a very engrossing, complex and deep game and I’m having a blast playing it. More importantly it’s the kind of game that only could’ve been built by a studio that puts passion for the art and respect for gamers first, above bottom line and market projections. It’s great to see that this type of development studio still exists. (and I know they’re not only ones of course, but it’s always great to discover more)

    • AngoraFish says:

      it’s damn sight better than anything we’ve gotten in, oh I don’t know, a decade or two

      So you say, but I’m genuinely not seeing anything we haven’t seen thousands of times before in Cities Unlimited/XL trailers, or indeed, in SimCity 2000.

      In fact, the Cities XL trailers look brilliant, and certainly better than these trailers do. Furthermore, I’ve not even seen any claims that the game is going to be better in any concrete way from the various alternatives.

      And let’s not even start on the noticeable lack of terraforming tools.

      You may be correct that it may be better than anything we’ve seen in the last two decades, but it’s not yet clear to me that the game is any better than one that was released in 1993, more than two decades ago.

      • The First Door says:

        Good gravy! If you’ve already played or seen something similar to it ‘thousands’ of times before just don’t buy it. You don’t have to spend your time telling others why they shouldn’t buy it. We haven’t all played so much of this genre and I, for one, would quite enjoy a nice new, modern take on it.

        Or, if it is so trivial to make the game better as you say, either make your own perfect game and release it for others to play, or more practically use the modding tools they’ve promised after it is released to improve it.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Good gravy! If you’ve not already played or seen something similar to it ‘thousands’ of times before just buy it. You don’t have to spend your time telling others why they should buy it.

  10. FriendlyFire says:

    My biggest issue with the game remains the visuals. The art style is… absent. It feels like someone applied a desaturation filter over the entire screen because REALISM. The buildings could be lifted from TurboSquid for how bland and generic they are. The engine feels limited in its ability to represent materials. I understand that the simulation takes a lot of resources, but most of those problems can be fixed at the GPU level, with minimal CPU overhead, so unless they’re being extremely fancy with their simulation they could afford the visual improvement.

    If there’s one thing SimCity did right (and always has), it’s the visuals. Vibrant, idealistic, stylized, very easy to recognize and understand (polluting structures are generally darker and dirty, clean stuff is bright and shiny, commercial buildings have very visible signs, etc.).

    • Shuck says:

      The thing is, the art team for SimCity 5 had at least twice as many people as the entire development team for this game. (For previous SimCity games, the art team was about the same size as the dev team for this game.) Of course it’s not going to have the same level of visual polish – that’s just not possible. Part of what you’re talking about is also making highly individual assets – and that only works if you have the resources to make lots of assets. You’re essentially criticizing it for being made by a smaller team.

      • AngoraFish says:

        A trivial procedural algorithm to change some minor variables such as construction materials (brick, render, glass), window shape, roof colour, etc. would go a very long way indeed in a game like this.

  11. johnny5 says:

    This game looks great.

  12. airmikee says:

    I never did try the new SimCity, the shenanigans put me off and soured me on the entire thing. Looking now with how much DLC is available/required to get the full game, I’m gonna pass on it until EA eventually gives it away for free. I still fire up SC4 and CXLP from time to time, and I’m really looking forward to this new city building entry.

  13. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Hey, my elf in Dragon Age has that same haircut.