The RPS Verdict – Cities: Skylines

A floating speech bubble appears over Videogame City, signalling that the citizens are demanding something. Clicking on it reveals the source of problem: “Not enough good city builders.” It seems all that have been built so far are poorly connected to the (road) network, too small to cater to the growing population, and otherwise stocked too poorly with what people want.

Best construct Cities: Skylines [official site]. It has huge cities, mod support and works offline, but is it doing more than simply filling a hole created by its peers? John, Alec, Adam, Pip and Graham gathered to discuss why it’s the RPS’ Game of the Month for April.

Adam:

Alec: We built this city on the grave of Maxis.

Graham: It fertilised the soil well, which is why Cities: Skylines is our first Game of the Month. I have lost whole weekends to it but I am prone to falling for city management games. Just to check: you all like it too, right? Dissent is welcome.

John: I like it too.

Graham: I like u too.

Alec: I fall a few pips short of love, but am firmly entrenched within like. Which may just be the story of my life.

Pip: I like it, although I haven’t been persuaded to spend much time in it

Adam: I am full of the love pips.

Which sounds weird now that I notice Pip just spoke. I meant Alec’s missing pips.

John: My like was expressed primarily in a lack of dislike, which is how I’ve met all city builders since SimCity 2000.

Alec: For years scientists have pondered what love is. We now know that it is exactly 12.5 Pips. RPS needs hire only 11.5 more of them in order to achieve transcendence.

I tell you what though, I am convinced that like will become love thanks to the mods. I think it’s difficult to overstate how much a citybuilder needed something like the Steam workshop. This may well be Skylines’ greatest triumph, as it was for Skyrim.

Graham: I love it in the same way that I loved Maxis’s city builders, in that the simulation seems to endlessly supply things which need tidying or fixing and so I can never stop playing it for finding something new to tinker with. It’s a timesink. And I think Skylines is maybe a less sophisticated or polished timesink than SimCity 4, but makes up for that because of, as Alec says, the mods.

Pip: I like it because it feels like there’s a neat solution to the idea of “city” out there and to find it you just need to work up to it and understand how everything fits together. But on the way, like Graham said, I get attached to bits of it and suddenly the idea of a messy city that works around those bits is what I want. The idea of a solution is always there but it’s frequently shifting. You end up with goals you want to achieve but they shift about as you play and it’s nice when that’s not a problem.

Alec: I think it’s much more of a fiddling/tweaking game, whereas Sim City is much more of a Pathological Pursuit Of Wealth game. And I really like that about Skylines, it’s this ambient toy rather than than this stern spreadsheet

Adam: It manages to be sedate and challenging, which is quite astonishing really.

Graham: I always ended up tinkering similarly in older SimCities, but that may be because I play as often with Infinite Money cheats on as off. As Adam says, the challenge remains. For me, it’s in fixing traffic problems without bulldozing districts.

Adam: I can sit tinkering and tweaking while I’m listening to a podcast or half-watching the telly, and then something in the balance tips and I’m fully engaged.

Alec: You have to really mess up to now have plenty o’cash here. But I’m sure there’ll be hardcore public spending mods too.

John: I mostly care about laying water pipes. I have missed laying water pipes.

Alec: And yeah, the challenge focus has shifted to road layouts. These are Moebius loop logistical puzzles I really struggle with, but I get very excited when I finally figure out how to fix a traffic jam

Adam: Did anyone else play Cities In Motion 1 or 2? The previous, transport-focussed Colossal Order games?

Graham: I played Cities in Motion for a few hours and 20 minutes of the sequel. On that evidence, I did not suspect that they had this game in them. I found CiM fiddly and with a terrible interface and everything seemed more like a chore than drawing lovely new sliproads in Skylines.

Adam: Nor I. They were far too fiddly for my liking and I worried that Skylines would multiply that fiddliness by applying the same approach to every aspect of the city. Instead, in zooming out, they’ve become less finicky.

John: And electricity lines! You get to put down electricity lines!

Adam: The traffic modelling in Skylines is stripped back from the Cities In Motion sim but my main worry was the interface. I really struggled with Cities in Motion 2 and when I started playing Skylines I thought it might have some of the same problems – struggling to make John’s pipes and lines snap into place – but it all works really efficiently.
That’s the thing that pleases me most – I never feel like I’m fighting against the game

Alec: It’s wonderful thing to say ‘yeah, just get water and power near a zone and we’ll do the rest for you’. I guess some people would love to draw every little line under and over every little street, but I really appreciate Skylines ‘we got this, you go get on with designing’ ethos

Adam: I love that I can have a residential zone with one little commercial blob in it for a cornershop.

Alec: And you can name that shop. Corners R Us. World of Corners. Adam’s Corners Emporium.

Graham: The thing I’ve noticed is that the simulation is simpler in lots of ways when compared to the last SimCity. Does anyone care that it’s not accurately modelling moment to moment poo locations? Or that water pumps can all be jammed down a single location, etc.?

Adam: No. I thought I would but I’d rather the game worked. And that’s not a jab at SimCity at all! What I mean is that the compromises in the simulation exist to make it work.

John: Fun > Sim.

Alec: I don’t. This is the thing, whatever the truth of all those cloud processing claims about SimCity, its eyes were on the wrong prize. I think Skylines proves you can achieve the appearance of moment-to-moment simulation without having to actually do it, and thus it’s an easier game to make.

Alec: But even then it still tracks every person’s home, which SC didn’t. I don’t think that it’s a marvel so much as it just went into things with a profoundly more practical mindset.

Adam: One thing that it cheats with is people going to work. If they can’t find their way to their job – and they do TRY to get there – they just sort of accept that and eventually return home.

Somebody has already modded that so that they HAVE to go to work. They won’t give up. Or if they do, I think they lose their jobs. There are consequences, basically, on an individual level, for bad road networks.

Alec: ‘Ian Skyline’s 480 Hour Commute’

Adam: In theory, that sounds great. Practically, it’s something that Colossal Order had working themselves and removed because it wasn’t enjoyable. That word ‘fiddly’ again. The simulation HAS to be compromised because it’s never going to resemble reality. It just has to be a credible representation of the numbers and physical movements.

John: However, unfortunately we can’t give the game Game Of The Month, because of the miserable, motherhating faux Twitter bird shitface arsebucket.

On page two: Chirpy, the tutorial, Pillars of Eternity, and Skylines’ faults.

55 Comments

  1. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Hello. I am commenting to you from page 3. It is much better here than on page 2. And all you people on page 1? REALLY should know better.

    So its a good game then? I will wait to make sure its not an April Fools and then maybe think about buying it, to add to my backlog of other city builders I never, ever played (but so could if I wanted to. FREEDOM)

    • Premium User Badge

      Arnvidr says:

      Hah, those suckers on page 2 with their different types of “Next page”/”Previous page” links, think they’re so special.

      • Premium User Badge

        RaveTurned says:

        Well, our comments seem to be in italics at the moment. That’s pretty groovy!

  2. hollowroom says:

    This game has taken more of my time up than any other in recent memory. But:

    Bike lanes!

    Smaller roundabouts!

    Parks that don’t need to be on roadsides and can be connected by paths…

    Better industry (bigger farms)

    I also find changing the transport lines to be quite finicky, especially the underground.

    It’s possible these have all been addressed in the 23,000 odd mods that are out there. But one more thing:

    run it in fullscreen rather than a borderless window please.

    • mike2R says:

      >I also find changing the transport lines to be quite finicky, especially the underground.

      >It’s possible these have all been addressed in the 23,000 odd mods that are out there.

      The Extended Public Transport UI mod is the one you want:
      link to steamcommunity.com

      Select one of the types of public transport, then you can toggle lines off and on in that – deselect all lines and just turn on the one you want to work on to make it a lot easier. Also makes it a snap to immediately change the colour of a new line, which is really handy.

    • draglikepull says:

      The fact that you can’t build things like parks along paths instead of roads annoys me too (what point do paths even serve?).

    • drussard says:

      There is a mod that allows zoning on walking paths so you can put that park anywhere you can connect a foot path to and allows police to get there as well. (anyone who plopped a road then a park then bulldozed the road to get a park somewhere remote will know it instantly becomes a crime ridden festering sore)

  3. fish99 says:

    I’m curious what the biggest city population anyone has achieved while still getting less than 100% cpu usage at full game speed (3x) is? (and on what CPU) I’m also curious how much traffic problems impact these numbers. For me on a 3570K the limit seems to be around 100K or so, but I do have some traffic issues.

    Having said that I generally play on 1x speed where my 120K city still has some CPU overhead to grow.

    • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

      3x speed is as fast as possible, so the awnser is no.

      I’m to 170k in my city on an old i5 and still going strong, but 3x is only slightly faster than 2x now.

  4. Asokn says:

    The mod support is excellent but I’ve never used the Steam Workshop before. Is there a way of adding a load of new buildings in one go, a sort of ‘one click collection’, or does each mod have to be individually selected and installed?

    • hollowroom says:

      As far as I can tell, you need to click every one individually. But it’s not too bad to just click “Subscribe”and move on.

      I do this at work during quiet times, then let steam install them when I get home ;-)

    • arisian says:

      The steam workshop has “collections”, which are lists of mods put together by other people. Most of the collections have a “subscribe to all” button that, when clicked, will add all the mods in the list. See: http://steamcommunity.com/workshop/browse/?appid=255710&browsesort=trend&section=collections. If you’re looking for growable buildings in particular, try link to steamcommunity.com, for example.

    • slerbal says:

      Yes. If you look at the collection’s page on the Workshop, just above the list of mods included there is usually a Subscribe to All button (though not all collections have this as it is an optional feature). Certainly though the various “Moo’s Collections” have the Subscribe to All option.

  5. UnholySmoke says:

    #modsarehelpingalreadyofcourse

  6. Mr Coot says:

    Very good! The mention of price made me double check the Oz price on Steam and I find it is at parity with the US ie. US$30, so fair (non-gouged) regional pricing. Thank you, Colossal Order if any of you happen by. I will have to break my temp buying abstinence and buy it full price in appreciation. (Usually I punish greedy regional price-gouging publishers and devs by either not buying their games at all or waiting until they are 75% off. A $30 game priced at $40 for Oz will result in lost revenue if more than 33% of customers who would’ve paid the full price at $30 wait until it is 75% off, not including any increased demand at the lower price and income forgone from the delay in sale)

    • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

      The game is published by paradox interactive, which takes the responsibility for the pricing. :P

  7. derbefrier says:

    Good game I was playing this quite a bit but then pillars of eternity released.

  8. robc says:

    Skylines got the basics of city building right, but was too shallow to provide lasting enjoyment for me. Building roads and managing traffic were the high points. I enjoyed the time I spent with it, but don’t think I’ll play again unless they somehow make the game play deeper.

    • James says:

      I think the dev plan to keep updating the game, it also has a Skyrim level modding scene to add stuff. Check back in a few weeks, hopefully there will be mods of fields, bikes and proper parks.

    • Canadave says:

      Colossal Order is definitely planning on continuing to support and upgrade the game. They’ve already announced there will be a free update to allow tunnels sometime in the near future, and given the studio’s background, I have a suspicion there will be a transportation DLC of some sort before too long.

  9. schlusenbach says:

    Despite all the chirpy hate, Paradox decided timely to add chirpy to several of its’ games.

  10. slerbal says:

    I enjoyed my time with it and managed to make an optimal city design where the residential zones were not connected to the commercial or industrial zones by road but only by dedicated busways (roads exclusive to busses unconnected to any other roads, but with their own bus depot, firestation incinerator and crematorium and lots of bus stops and elevated walk ways), walkways and metros and that worked brilliantly.

    My city looked like the city in Logan’s Run by the end of it :)

    I can’t wait to see what DLCs they come up with and what other new mods the community comes up with. It is still in the top 3 sellers on Steam – Pillars only briefly went above it, which I was slightly surprised about. Paradox must be over the moon on how well it has done.

  11. James says:

    My consumption of Skylines is such that I look at the junction outside of my school and think ‘If only the council built an off-ramp there then the traffic trying to go up the hill could ignore the traffic lights like the lot going down the hill’ Seriously Wycombe Council – play Skylines, it will teach you how to NOT route all ingoing/outgoing traffic onto one sodding 4 lane road!!!

    Anger… subsiding… rant… complete. Also, italics, woo.

    I may be playing a little too much Skylines.

    • James says:

      everything just went into non italics… RPS may be haunted, that or somebody clicked a wrong button.

  12. SanguineAngel says:

    Regarding tutorials: I think the games is designed well enough that it just doesn’t need much in the way of tutorial.

    Pip mentions that she had a moment where she didn’t know why people were coming to live in her city and the game didn’t tell her. To this I say “Good!”

    I don’t want my games telling me how to solve the problems they’ve set me. It gives you all the tools to work out the solution to pretty much any problem yourself but it still requires you to solve it. Obviously it’s a matter of taste but that’s why this game sings to me.

    Also, water pumps! You can’t really slap them all down in one place willy nilly. They can sap the current pretty significantly if you do.

    Right, back to reading, this is great! I’ve missed these articles

    • Canadave says:

      I thought that was a pretty neat feature re: the water pumps when I first noticed it. I’m so used to just being able to slap water pumps down where ever from playing SimCity, so I was genuinely surprised when I noticed the water level in my river was a lot lower than it used to be.

      Thankfully, you can fix it by dumping sewage right back into the river. That’ll help out all the fish.

  13. Ejia says:

    Cities: Skylines appears to be the best city builder currently available.

    The king is dead. Long live the king. SC4 had a great run.

    Now I just have to wait for loads and loads of power plants to be made in the workshop. For some reason I loved having a dozen different power plants even when i should just be sticking to the most efficient one.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    I’ll be interested to learn how much games released in previous months feature in future months. Can Pillars of Eternity take the flag for May, being released at the tail end of March, or has it simply lost its chance?

    Interesting hat-tips for the inevitable end-of-the-year awards.

  15. Azagthoth says:

    Game of the month for us with no PS4. Praying for a Bloodborne port, despite the 1:100000000 odds :(

  16. SuicideKing says:

    Yeah, I think I generally agree with the Hive Mind (Where’s Alice?). I have a fair bit to add on but don’t feel like typing. I will say this about traffic, though: It’s easier if you follow your own country’s convention.

    Play with left-hand traffic if that’s where you’re from, from what I noticed my road layouts were just more naturally left-friendly, and I made a mess of right-handed traffic initially.

    I do wish the office zone demand was represented by a meter as well, among some other things. And I just keep chirpy mute and shut, doesn’t bother me, but I can’t say it was ever useful.

    Aaagrh I’m getting tempted to write more.

  17. SuicideKing says:

    THERE’S A FLIGHT SIM MOD FOR IT
    link to steamcommunity.com

  18. Kempston Wiggler says:

    I think it’s much more of a fiddling/tweaking game, whereas Sim City is much more of a Pathological Pursuit Of Wealth…

    …for EA.

  19. Joshua Northey says:

    It is really solid, best city builder in a while.

    The industry really needs some work. You really cannot have industry if you educate your people, which is absurd, and if you set up oil or ore mining the deposits are gone in absolutely no time.

    Construction of buildings is too fast (a couple days for a sky scraper), and the time logic makes no sense whatsoever. Each “day” in the simulation should really be a month, and then just totally divorce the game from the illusion that the cars and people are moving in real time.

    Money is much too easy to make.

    Chirpy is ill conceived, but maybe not as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. It is basically the little message scroll from past citybuilders with a bird on it. They just underestimate how much normal people hate twitter and hashtags.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Industry does scale with education which also reduces pollution if I understand correctly.

      However, I agree with you on the resources front, they do disappear rapidly

  20. Rikard Peterson says:

    I like this article! It was well worth reading, and “game of the month” is a good idea too. The advent calendar in December just gets too much for me, so I’m not able to follow it, and the same with other end-of-year award things. Once a month is good – particularly if you’re always going to give that game a thorough look.

    And it’s a nice logo you got for it too!

  21. airmikee says:

    The one million population cap is a real let down, the size of cities in Skylines just isn’t quite as epic as I had hoped it would be. I’m really hoping that future DLC will increase the population cap, otherwise I may just skip Skylines completely.

    • fantodant says:

      Fortunately, that number doesn’t mean what you think it means. While C:S’s cities have smallish populations, they look like those populations are at least 4x bigger. I’m looking at a building right now, for example – 9 floors, in the very least 4 apartments (visually) per floor but possibly as many as 12 considering the dividers on the balconies, for a grand total of 36-108 apartments (let’s say 72 as a midpoint). The game only puts 16 total households in it, filled at the moment with 59 people.

      So, you get the appearance of a big city, but the real population is a lot smaller – and every single member of it is a real, simulated agent. This is, in my mind, the best compromise; Cities XXL gave you huge, multi-million person cities but their simulation was pretty barebones. SC2013 simulated everyone and had a relatively smaller population count to S:C’s…but their cities looked small.

      • airmikee says:

        The simulation of life isn’t why I play city building games, that’s reserved for The Sims. I play city building games because I want to make megacities, I want to build cities that are rare to see in real life. There are 476 cities worldwide that have 1 million population, but there are only 36 cities with 10 million or more. If my largest XXL city were real, it would be #14 on the most populated city proper with 11.5 million, #2 on the population density list at 103,636 per km2, and #17 on the most populated metropolitan areas at 17.5 million including the supporting cities. 1 million sims spread out over 100km2 in Skylines is a very realistic number, but I’m not looking for that level of realism in video games, I’m looking for the fantastic, the extreme, the fun that comes from not playing in reality.

        And besides, the only real difference in the 1 million ‘agents’ between Skylines and XXL is that Skylines names the Sims. XXL still tracks 1 million agents, it monitors where they live, work, and shop. It tracks their approval of city services, taxes, the environment, traffic, and leisure. XXL just doesn’t name them.

        I’m not saying Skylines is a bad game, it looks wonderful and much better than SimCity5. I’m simply saying that it’s too limited for what I want out of a city building game, and like SimCity5 I will end up skipping it because of the limitations.

    • James says:

      2 things:

      1) Do not ignore everything in its ultra attention-to-detailed simulation and shiny AA filtered loveliness because of a population cap that you are very unlikely to reach (my fully autonomous city is currently at 250k)

      2) MODS *grabs and lines up 27 megaphones* MODS YOU FOOL!

      Sorry if your ears bled – the modding scene of S:C wants the world to know at any cost!

      • airmikee says:

        My XXL city is at 11.5 million population, I think 250k would come and go like a cold wind.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    “Pillars will take years to play, but we’ll be playing Skylines for years.”

  23. Drumclem says:

    Ok this has probably been asked before, and has nothing to do with Cities, Skylines, or whatever, but it’s been bugging me.

    Why are articles divided in several pages? How long has it been going on? I don’t really like it, but then if it’s necessary for RPS’s success, you have my permission to continue doing it.

  24. bills6693 says:

    Maybe I’m not part of the not normal crowd but I really, really enjoyed Cities in Motion (1). I loved the idea that there was already this city with its existing, maybe bad road design and districts, and you had to build a public transport system around it. Plus I thought the pacing was good (the speed of getting money to upgrade, plus the loan temptation countered by the interest, and how you could get different length/interest rate loans). I loved the interaction between different methods of transport, and how you started out with little bus routes and ended up with a massive network of buses, trams and tubes(metros).

    So yeah… I thought CiM was actually a pretty awesome game, one I like going back to and hope (in vain) they make a true successor to, but it’s very unlikely

    • freedomispopular says:

      That has me thinking, I’d really love to see scenarios added. Start with a fully built city where you have to build a mass transit system, etc.

  25. Gap Gen says:

    I am reassured that someone else also named all their districts with the word Poo in it.

  26. Enkinan says:

    If I could make a tie, I would tie Cites and Pillars. Luckily I played so much Cities that I actually burnt myself out on it in time for Pillars. I will definitely go back in a few months and restart using all kinds of mods, but I’m content playing a massive amount of Pillars right now.

    It’s really great to have two games of this caliber revitalize what seemed “old” gameplay mechanics and drag them into the current with a great deal of improvements.

  27. xfstef says:

    I have no problems with Chirper. I really don’t see why people made such a big deal out of it. I don’t even look at it. If it were possible to disable it, without the mod, I would do it just so that I have a bit more screen space to watch my beautiful cities, but not out of pure annoyance. It’s a “meh” feature. It could have been better but it’s not a disaster.

    John, are you a pathological hater ?
    This game is one of the best news to PC Strategy (Simulation) gaming we’ve had in literally years. C:S is in my book already in the top 10 games of the year.