Republishing this feature from last month as it’s now updated with part 2 – utility mods for a more efficient, easier, less chaotic city with more comprehensible traffic.
It’s crazy how big publishers seem so fearful of mods, given how they’ve a proven track record for keeping a game popular. Skyrim still generates regular news stories due to its thriving mod community, and I’m pretty sure Paradox’s rapturously-received townbuilder Cities: Skylines is going to do similar. To take a look at its Steam Workshop library of community creations is to disappear down a rabbit hole of tinkering, as hundreds of players seek to finetune the cities of their dreams. Compare this to be walled garden of SimCity and it’s clear to see why citybuilder fans have taken Skylines to heart.
Any claim to have made a definitive Best Of compilation is an insane one, given the speed at which new creations arrive, and due to the high subjectivity involved. An authetically-shaped Australian football pitch is probably a Godsend to someone, for instance, whereas something that automatically bulldozes abandoned or burned-out buildings was what made me rub my lazy hands with glee. But, for now, here are just a few selected highlights to be getting on with. Please do suggest more below.
Note – I’m going to update this feature a couple of times with new categories/pages. We’ll bump it back to the front page when that happens, so hopefully you’ll know about it. For now, let’s kick off with the first and, for many people (including me), most appealing type of mod – graphical tweaks, or what I like to call Prettification. On the newly-added page 2 are utility mods – stuff to make a more efficient, cleaner-living city and, perhaps, a slightly lazier mayor. These are all available via Steam Workshop – just click the link in each mod’s name, click subscribe, then go to ‘mods’ in the main Cities menu and enable any you want to use.
While broadly a good-lookin’ videogame, Skylines is pretty lousy at anti-aliasing, so otherwise dramatic creations are laid low by jagged edges. You can screw around with anti-aliasing overrides via graphics card drivers, but both easier and more effective is dynamic resolution – i.e. make the game render at a higher resolution than your monitor supports, then downscale the bigger, sharper-edged image to your native screensize. I do this in drivers for various games if my card’s up to it, as it means clearer outlines and more game-world on my screen, but this simple mod is a whole lot easier and, most importantly, customisable within the game rather than requiring you to duck out and muck around with arcane NVIDIA or AMD settings any time you want to make a change. You can bind the mod’s interface to a key of your choice, then choose how much scaling you want. Obviously there’s a huge hit on framerate, but I’m finding the visual pay-off of running at 4K is very much worth dropping down to 30FPS for.
Make your city look a little bit more like an expensive car commercial, essentially. It’s not a major effect in its own right, but coupled with some or all of the others in this category you end up with a dramatically more beautiful Skylines. Be warned that it currently has a bug which means you can’t exit the game via menus, however. Alt-F4 works, though. Hit F8 to adjust this on-the-fly.
An effect you’ve probably found in a fair few settings menus in your time. Basically, it simulates shadowing in recessed areas, cracks and crannies, thereby lending a greater sense of depth and perceived detail to the two-dimension image you’re staring at. Surprising that this isn’t included in Skylines already, to be honest. Like Sun Shafts, it’s not a huge change, but bundle all this stuff together and you’re laughing. Hit F8 to adjust this on-the-fly.
Borrowing a few pages from Borderlands’ style, this adds comicbook-like outlines to to Cities. It’s more subtle and less stylised/lunatic than Borderlands, and rather than making a city look like a living comic it makes individual buildings look more distinct, as well as adding a little more personality to what can be a slightly aesthetically bland affair. Results are a bit of a mix bag as clearly the game wasn’t designed to look like this, but it’s broadly worthwhile, and an immediately noticeable shift. Hit F10 to tinker with this in-game. Works well with all of the above, but less so…
Ah, this one’s a beaut, and maybe even an essential. The aim is to make Skylines look more like Sim City 4 and other earlier citybuilders, and it’s an immediate, effortless success. Partly it’s giving me a big nostalgia cuddle, and partly it’s taming a slightly over-excitable camera and presenting a view which really makes the terrain pop. You can still rotate freely, by the way. Hit F8 to adjust this on-the-fly. As an altnerative (they clash with each other), there’s…
We covered a first-person camera mod already here, but this does it a whole lot better. It enables you to natively pull the camera far further out, and then zoom it all the way into street level. Essentially, it unlocks the camera, making it what it should have been in the first place, and adding a new sense of planetary awe to proceedings. It doesn’t have the follow-a-car/person trick of the other one linked, but no doubt there’ll be some way to make both work.
Just a bugbear-fixer, this. For some strange reason, Skylines depicts pollution by adding a purple haze to affected ground and water. If you want something more realistic – or at least less Willy Wonka – then this collection will sort things out. Linked further down the page are various different colours, including dead brown grass or Simpsons-style luminous green water.
I’m not entirely certain whether this should be classified as a prettiness mod or a building enhancement one, but I’ll stick it in here anyway. If you’ve basically made the city of your fevered dreams and have run out of much else to do, you can add some freeform greenery to further beautify things with this tree painter tool. It’s far more flexible than Skylines’ built-in green spaces options, which can be a fiddle to fit into a busy conurbation and only come in prefab spaces.
And finally (for now), my stand-out personal favourite…
Look at it! Look at it! This adds a new ‘colour correction’ rendering mode to Skylines’ settings menus, aping the bleached out’n’red look of Mirror’s Edge. Granted, you don’t get the brilliant whites of Mirror’s Edge as this is a colour hack – essentially running the world through a blue filter to bleach out the colour – rather than a retexturing, but it still works incredibly well in practice. It’s also available without the red highlights if you like, but borrrrrrrrrrrring.
On page 2 – practical mods, including traffic management, recycling, UI tweaks and bulldozing for lazy people.