You: SimCity... Network... Not this again! What are EA up to n-- Wait. SimCity 4? Network Addon Mod?
Me: The latest SimCity might have been hamstrung by infrastructural problems, but there's no reason your love affair with Maxis' fair city-builder need end there. SimCity 4 has enormous cities. SimCity 4 had no internet requirement. SimCity 4 had... all the same traffic problems as the more recent release. But! It also had a vibrant modding community that's still working on fixing problems and making the game better today. This pre-release (i.e. alpha release) of version 32 of the Network Addon Mod is testament to that. NAM improves the game's pathfinding, fixes bugs in the base game, and adds "a myriad of new transport network items, ranging from ground light rail, to fractional-angle roads, to roundabouts, and much more"
Here's an expanded list of features from the ModDB site, because it's the nerdy detail of it all that excites me so much.
- The NAM Elevated Viaducts for Roads, One-Way Roads, and Avenues are now available in a draggable form, at both Level 1 (7.5 meter) and Level 2 (15 meter) heights, complete with FLEX Height and On-Slope transitions. Overpass situations involving one or more diagonal networks are not yet supported, and will not be available until a future NAM release after Version 32.
- Elevated Rail-over-Avenue and Elevated Rail-over-NWM Road-4 dual-networking support has been added, complete with a new station supporting both networks.
- The initial phases of the RealRailway (RRW) system have been added. This feature must be selected as part of a custom install.
- The RealHighway (RHW) system has been expanded to include the QuickChange interchange system, which blends the RHW's modularity with the ease of Maxis Highway construction techniques for certain situations, which will be expanded in future NAM releases. Additionally, several new types of FLEXRamps are available--please read the instructions in the description text. FLEX Transitions have also been given stability improvements for certain situations.
- Coupled with the RHW system, the NAM now offers Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) functionality, including stations.
And so on.
NAM isn't the only SimCity 4 mod worth installing, nor the only mod still under development. The SimCity 4 Devotion website and forums reveal a community still humming away with activity, and there's a lot that's worth looking at. That includes downloadable saved games, new buildings to turn your city into Tokyo or some other real world hotspot, and expansive mods and total conversions.
Despite its age, SimCity 4's high-resolution sprites still look fantastic. Time has even been kind, as today's faster computers have a better time rendering all those hundreds of sprites than my machine did when the game was first released.
If you're looking for a spot of management and city-building this Christmas, you could do worse than dig out your old copy. Because no matter how hard they try, there's hardly a single game developer that can match the ouput and commitment of their community. The Network Addon Mod is available from ModDB, and the SC4D Lot Exchange contains plenty more to browse.