Cities: Skylines Adding World-Changing ‘Theme Editor’

Ah that's pleasant!

I do like ‘the Paradox approach’ to expansions, where the paid additions are accompanied by big free updates with new things for all players. So sure, city-building sim Cities: Skylines [official site] will be playing with snow and trams in the Snowfall expansion next Thursday, but developers Colossal Order are also working on new things for everyone. I do like the look of the ‘Theme Editor’ letting folks retheme the world to look like, say, another planet. Or covering it in Dolph Lundgren. Have a look:

That’s pretty nice that, isn’t it? Not world-changing (well, aside from making Earth look like one of Jupiter’s moons), but fun to fiddle with.

Paradox explain that the patch will also bring rain and fog, “an expanded UI for public transportation management,” and new chirps and hats for “everyone’s favorite in-game social media avatar”. THIS WILL MAKE YOU LOVE THAT DAMN BIRD.

Right, yes, anyway. Snowfall will arrive next Thursday, February 18th. It’ll cost £9.99/$12.99. If you demand to see Snowfall now now now, Paradox played a fair bit of it on that same livestream. You’ll learn about heating, cold-related illnesses, snow troubles on the roads, the new tram system, and plenty more.

Heck, I’m just curious to see nice tram systems. I understand the advantages of a tram network in theory but I’ve never ridden one myself, probably because those I’ve seen are the result of innumerable compromises. Building a tram system here in Edinburgh caused years of disruption and ran over-budget, and they’ve turned out less useful than busses. Cities: Skylines is interesting from a planning perspective because transport systems are built up from scratch alongside the whole dang city. You start off planning for future growth and trusting it’ll come, rather than slowly reacting to years-old needs – unlike most of the cities I’ve known. They’ve all pre-dated cars, so transport solutions are smooshed in between all the buildings and routes which may be illogical but were there first – obstacles planners must work around. All the political, financial, and social pressures that brings will often lead to an inefficient, troubled public transport network.

I enjoyed this article explaining that China’s newly-built, sprawling, empty ‘ghost cities’ aren’t failures, rather they’re “built on an urban model, timeline, and scale that is simply unfamiliar to the methods of Western urbanisation.” They’re planning for the decades to come. They’re like city-building sims.

Oh! Adam has something to add: “Manchester’s Metrolink tram system is the best way to travel around the city and its outskirts on the one day every year that it runs on time. Even though I’ve been using it for years and trams should feel ordinary, I still get excited about Blackpool trams because they seemed exotic to me when I was a tiny child.”


  1. MrFinnishDude says:

    Huh, I’m exited about the ability to change textures in the Theme Editor. Maybe people can now create worlds that look like Ni no Kuni or something. Green, pleasant steppes, sprawling woods and white seaside cliffs… and then you go and build an industrial complex on top of it.

    • Blad the impaler says:

      If you can dream it …

    • phelix says:

      The solution, of course, is to recolour the “polluted land” texture to a natural shade of green.
      Now you can have both your industrial complexes and sprawling green fields!

  2. teije says:

    Trams yay! In Toronto they are streetcars (because tram is too Euro, apparently) and they are the most best form of transit ever invented. Especially the shiny new ones.

  3. bouchacha says:

    Over in the United States there’s a similar debate about trams even among fans of public transit. As best as I can tell, the only advantages they have is that they’re “sexier” and have a smoother ride than buses. The downsides seem significant in the form of vastly more expensive infrastructure required as well as reducing the amount of space bicycles can safely traverse through (I’ve been injured and personally witnessed at least a dozen cyclists in Seattle hit the ground after their wheel got stuck in the track).

    The other arguments I hear in favor of them I don’t find convincing. The most prominent one is that building a tram system signals to local businesses that services will not be cut in the future, but I don’t see how that can’t be achieved by some sort of bond. Also, they tend to build trams in already highly dense neighborhoods. There are also arguments about increased capacity, easier boarding, and sometimes dedicated space but all of those can be replicated by larger buses and a Bogota style bus system (TransMilenio).

    My cynical self thinks that trams are mostly a money making opportunity for contractors. I fail to see what worthwhile benefit they provide given their significantly increased infrastructure costs.

    • RabbitIslandHermit says:

      Local and state governments raid supposedly protected funds for specific purposes pretty regularly, I don’t see how a bond could stop that. I don’t see why building mass transit in the densest areas that is a bad thing. I also think bus boosters tend to underestimate the importance of quality of ride, assuming we’re trying to create a system with high ridership that is a real alternative to cars and not just a last resort.

      • bouchacha says:

        By bond I meant a legal instrument where the municipality puts up a set amount of money in escrow and maintains interest payments from it but it forfeits the whole amount if the bus service changes. It’s another way for a municipality to “commit” to local businesses serviced by transit. And I didn’t say building in the densest area is a bad thing! It’s just that dense areas of the city are by far the least likely to lose transit service if cutbacks are implemented, so they therefore are the least likely to need a “commitment” demonstration in the form of sunk costs in expensive tram infrastructure.

        I don’t mean to dismiss quality of ride too much, but I do question its utility given the cost. Frequency of service seems to be far more important for increasing ridership (I tried but couldn’t find articles on this again) because transit can then much more directly compete against the individual car’s greatest asset (namely convenience and timing). To me it seems to make more sense to take expensive tram infrastructure money and instead implement dedicated lanes to buses so they don’t get stuck in traffic and/or increase frequency and range of service.

        • Nogo says:

          We have something similar to what you described at the end. Dedicated lanes, stops, and lights for double-length articulated buses. The ride is fairly pleasant because they use lifted platforms similar to trams, allowing for a fancy suspension systems. Additionally, certain sections are even becoming automated, where the driver doesn’t have to steer.

          It’s a very flexible system that integrates well, providing all the benefits of trams without a lot of the restrictions and infrastructure.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Dedicated bus lanes need to be done very carefully, the “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) corridor in Delhi has been a complete mess.

      • finc says:

        Well, sir, there’s nothin’ on earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail!

    • Xerophyte says:

      The infrastructure cost isn’t strictly one-sided. The maintenance cost for vehicles and track/road is typically a lot lower per passenger-distance on trams than on buses, and you don’t need to replace the vehicles nearly as frequently.

      Whether or not that justifies the greater initial cost and general inflexibility is a different question. It’s a lot less attractive for cities where underground rail is an option, but in cities where they’re not — I live in Gothenburg, which is built entirely on mud and granite and digging tunnels everywhere has at least historically been hilariously impractical — putting the tracks aboveground is a reasonable replacement.

      • bouchacha says:

        Why would the maintenance cost be lower? The only feature of trams that can’t be replicated in regular buses is the use of steel wheels on tracks instead of rubber on pavement and I don’t imagine there’s a significant cost difference between the two. Trolleybuses (buses powered by overhead cables) would have essentially the same maintenance cost as trams. Trolleybuses do require infrastructure costs in the form of overhead cables, but those are needed by trams too but trolleybuses don’t need to spend significant funds on tracks. Here’s more information on that system: link to

      • gunny1993 says:

        I was working in Munich for a while and I thought the combinations of trams, buses and underground was awesome, I lived on the literal other side of the city from my work (fuck getting decent accommodation in Munich on a budget) and it still only took me less than an hour to get to work. Comparatively a similar distance trip in london would have taken much longer.

        I guess it could be the layout, the trams there tend to be on the routes going from the suberbs to the central area so it makes a lot of sense to have an efficient permanent solution in place.

        Not to mention that they’re electric and are therefore quieter and more environmentally friendly.

      • ishumar says:

        But the Gothenburg tram system is a mess! The Italian cars keep breaking down – and late last year I read something about emergency exits having been non-functional for more or less the entire time they had been in traffic. The inner city lines are incredibly congested, with too-frequent stops and all the older cars making the potential smoothness of the new ones impossible.

        The only stretches where I feel the system is working is in the suburbs, where it is more or less a metro light rail system anyway, in tunnels and ditches (Kortedala-Bergsjön and Angeredsbanan). The municipality seem really keen to invest now, but the slowness associated with extending services and opening new lines as traffic increases is really a case against the current system. It is really a shame that a partial underground tram system connecting the suburban lines through the city center was not included in Västlänken…

  4. Detournemented says:

    A world covered in Dolph Lundgren.

    I need to live in this world.