Cities XL catch-all

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Can't find any threads about this game, so I'll start one up.

Anybody playing with the Cities XL demo? (EU version, runnable in the US, available here. Requires a website registration to run, and the demo account lasts for seven days. A US demo is to be out on September 8th, it sounds like, and it's possible it might have some fixes over the EU one.) It's a SimCity-alike, from Monte Cristo (who also made City Life).

IMAGE(http://www.citiesxl.com/share/stories/News/thumbs/poster.gif) IMAGE(http://www.citiesxl.com/share/stories/News/thumbs/hongkongmap.gif) IMAGE(http://www.citiesxl.com/share/stories/News/thumbs/gemskiplan.gif) IMAGE(http://www.citiesxl.com/share/stories/News/thumbs/planet.gif)

(details in second post to avoid cluttering the header too much).

Some details:

Curved roads. I mention this first because they have several videos demonstrating it, so they must be very excited about it. I must admit, it's pretty cool. Very nice for bridges and tunnels, too.

Map areas have natural resources associated with them--specifically: fresh water, arable land, oil, and "vacation spots" (i.e. beaches, scenic natural areas, mountains suitable for ski slopes, etc. Not every map has every natural resource, and they're not evenly distributed across the map. So you might have an area with both oil and vacation areas, where you'll rather have to decide which one to exploit.

Like City Life, there are different kinds of citizens--but they removed the whole "tribe" thing where some people don't like being next to other people. Instead, you have various social classes and education levels. You have "unqualified workers", "qualified workers", "executives", and "elites". I don't think there's any of the same sort of class-warfare mechanic as in City Life, although it's possible that elites don't particularly like living near property zoned for unqualified workers.

This isn't to say that you want a city of all elites, of course. For example, low-density industrial employs mainly unqualified workers, whereas low-density offices employ mainly qualified workers. The reason you need both isn't just that the citizens demand it. Rather, there's a rather complex web of "resources" (not to be confused with the natural resources mentioned above) that the different kinds of businesses produce and consume. Heavy industrial businesses sell "Heavy Industry" and buy "Fuel" and "Office Services". Offices sell "Office Services" and buy "Business Hotels" (space in hotels). Other kinds of business consume and produce other resources. Some are traded between businesses, and some are demanded by your population (like the "Retail Goods" that retail shops produce.)

Businesses can also be impacted by various other non-resource features. For example, heavy industrial businesses do better if they have a good carrying capacity to the edge of the map (your connection to "the world"). If you have a lot, they do better. If you have very little, they may do so poorly that they go bankrupt entirely. Contrariwise, heavy industry produces an adverse pollution effect in the world, which residents (and certain other businesses) don't do well around.

The way the natural resources factor into this is that buildings that require certain natural resources can only be built in certain areas. A fuel plant can only be built where there's oil on your map. A farm (whether it is a cereal, livestock, vegetable, or fruit farm) must be placed on arable land. Vacation spots can only go in areas that are touristy. And fresh water wells only go where there's fresh water.

But I said that not every resource is available on every map, right? So how do you make do, say, in an area with no supply of oil for fuel, or no arable land for growing food?

Well--trade is how. When you produce an excess of something (my city of Llamabad is currently producing an excess of Heavy Industry) you can ship it out, and when you have an insufficient supply of something (I'm not yet producing fuel locally, although I will later), you can import it.

And while trade in a solo game might be fun, this idea of trade brings up the biggest feature of the game: persistent multi-player worlds. They're aiming for an MMO-type service, base price $10 a month, to create your city on a persistent world. The subscription fee also gets you free access to new "gems" (more on that shortly), new maps, new building models, etc. They're saying 25 solo maps and 50 maps for "planet" play when the game is released. (You choose a map on the planet by examining spots to build, and each spot has one of the pre-set maps that matches the resource profile for the area.)

On the planet, you can trade with cities that are near you--limited in range and volume by the freight transportation methods you have available (i.e. a highway can carry more than a simple road, a seaport can provide access to sea trade, etc.) Your citizens can also commute outside the city for certain services--this is a way, for example, that they can satisfy their demand for visiting ski slopes or beaches if you have neither. Again, the volume of passenger transport to the outside world is bound by what infrastructure you've built up. There's a reasonable system for setting up buy and sell orders to establish trade contracts (which continue until broken--you're trading income of one sort for income of another sort on a recurring basis, not trading one batch for money.)

From a multi-player perspective: You can also, of course, visit other peoples' cities and look around, including going into "avatar mode" to check out the views--something I don't particularly care about.

The gems thing: Gems are apparently special-purpose "sim" tools for different features in the game. For example, you can use the beach gem to set up a beach resort, the ski gem to set up a ski resort. I haven't played with these at all yet--I don't even know if they're in the demo--but they look to allow you to design a really good sort of X, Y, or Z thing, and have the goodness of the design benefit its use at the city level. So you'd zone out an area for ski slopes, then go in and actually decide where to put lodges, ski lifts, which slopes are beginner slopes, etc. Something like that. (Picture of some of that in the third image in the top post.)

Finally, there's the concept of "megastructures". Basically, things like the statue of liberty, etc. These require monumental amounts of resources to build, according to the tutorial, and using trade to get what you need is recommended. The presence of one or more (in addition to looking cool) provides various city bonuses.

Well, I suppose that's enough about the features of the game.

My impressions so far from the demo: There are definitely some UI pieces that could be improved. I don't know whether they'll have time before release to fix them. :X Camera control isn't as smooth as I would like--tends to turn very quickly at times. There are some UI pieces that can't be used simultaneously, or that behave oddly, which is a bit annoying. (Click on a little button to close the road building tool so that you can turn on the services display, for example.) Many of the things you *really* want to do simultaneously do work or are automatic, but not all.

I've been playing in planet mode (multi-player), and the game seems slightly slow-paced compared with most city building games. That might be an aspect of the game that extends to single player, or it might just be that in order to keep the on-line thing feeling good, they lowered the pace a bit so that it takes time and tending to build up a great city. Of course, in on-line play you also can't adjust the rate at which time passes (again, I don't know one way or the other about solo.)

All in all, it seems interesting. Some clear warts that I hope they will use their MMO-style monthly income to fix up, but the intricate web of resource production and consumption for businesses seems very nicely done, and the freedom from grid layout (although not absolute) and diverse landscape topologies free things up nicely on the front of building cities that feel "organic".

Edited to add: I just realized that the copy I found is the EU demo, and that the website announces that the demo will be downloadable on Sep. 8th. So it's possible that some of the UI issues I've had will be tuned up a bit in that version? I guess I'll maybe find out... if I can create a new demo account then.

I wonder why no one does skyscraper or arcology sims anymore? That was a fad for a while.

Hmm. I didn't know they were a big thing other than SimTower (and the gameboy ports). My impression was really that it was a different sim that required not much horsepower, but wasn't particularly exciting. (I mean—how much elevator shuffling can you stand?)

Hm, I guess I missed the concept that it was an MMO-ish game. That doesn't appeal to me much at all. I just like to build on my own terms. How is the single-player aspect? It looks like the demo was a limited time thing.

I think it's got a lot of promise--the real question is how that promise holds up. Most likely, the right thing to do is wait for release and see reactions from people who pick up the actual full game and play it a bit. The easiest to find ranty angry internet man rants I've seen have some very fair (ranty) points, but they also somehow fail to account for just how limited the demo was. (i.e. complaining about missing features that explicitly weren't included in the demo.)

But anyway, there's definitely a lot of negative out there about it, so Better Safe Than Sorry is a good approach. Worst case scenario, the game tanks, Monte Cristo dies, and it never gets any better. Middling scenario, it doesn't sell well at release and they open up some of the content they're restricting to the online bits. Best case scenario, it does okay and they open more content up to single player as time goes on (in which case you can buy it later when it's in good shape.

As for my feelings about gameplay: the UI annoyed me, but I thought the underlying mechanics were very solid (much much more solid than City Life's system). Assuming that the mechanics I saw in the small scale up well to larger cities, and that UI issues will eventually be fixed, I consider the game worth picking up when I have some time to invest in it.

A tiny bit surprised there isn't more interest in the game. When I heard about it certainly seemed to have possibilities, but not sure it's something I would pick up.

I'm so desperate for a modern city-sim that I'll probably buy this as soon as it's available and damn the reviews anyway.

I probably won't play the pay-for online thing though. I can't imagine getting $10/mo worth of entertainment out of doing so.

demonbox wrote:
A tiny bit surprised there isn't more interest in the game. When I heard about it certainly seemed to have possibilities, but not sure it's something I would pick up.

Sim City with a subscription fee isn't all that appealing to me.

I saw a trailer where they show someone texturing and assembling a building. Can you do that, or was that just a developer tool?

Yeah, I get the appeal from their end to get subscriptions and communities and online sharing and blah blah blah. Doesn't do squat for me though and it makes me worry that the single-player experience will be gimped to try and get people online.

What little I've seen from their videos is sexy.

Can someone confirm if the game will have a single-player aspect and it's not just a glorified demo? I downloaded the demo for my wife and she loved it, but there's now way we're paying monthly Euro charges to enable trade and a couple of lousy new skins.

It will definitely have a single-player aspect. The biggest thing people are worried about missing without paying for MP is that apparently more interesting mass-transit options (i.e. better than buses) are going to be gems and only in the online stuff. (Some speculation, as well, that gems will be available as microtransactions later instead of monthly fees.) Don't know what all else might be there, but that's the one I saw a lot of bitching about when I went hunting for info the other night.

My feeling about the whole subscription thing is that they probably should have gone straight microtransactions for that sort of thing. This setup shouldn't have nearly the kind of server load that MMOs have (I mean, it's basically an online saved-game backup system with some opportunities for trading—it could manageably be done *by hand* assuming cheats/special buildings and people not cheating on the cheating. If you know what I mean. Anyway, the bookkeeping involved is *tiny*.) Set up the community site, with those features, and then pull a Sims 3 and charge people to download new crap from your store. That might still piss people off, but I think it would stress people out less just because they're used to that model.

(As a note: I haven't played much Sims 3 at all, and yet I'm pretty sure I've spent more than $10 a month on random crap from their store since I got the game. I am an enormous sucker.)

Tangent: The Sims 3 store stuff is ridiculously overpriced. I refuse to buy any of it unless they bring it down substantially. I haven't even used the SimSpaceBucks the game comes with yet.

On-topic: I really wish CitiesXL was going the free-to-play with microtransaction-premiums rather than a subscription model. It's really dampened my interest in it. I love what Runes of Magic has done for the mainstream MMO space. I've bought diamonds for the game to get a mount and some goodies because the play value I've gotten out of the (otherwise fully-featured and still free) game more than justifies the occasional payment for premium goodies.

I really wish CitiesXL was just a game. A complete one. Like SimCity. Why does a definitively single-player experience need to be an MMO?

LobsterMobster wrote:
I really wish CitiesXL was just a game. A complete one. Like SimCity. Why does a definitively single-player experience need to be an MMO?

So they can milk you for additional content. They are trying to slap service contracts onto single player games as a one time product purchase.

Farscry wrote:
Tangent: The Sims 3 store stuff is ridiculously overpriced.

Agreed. In my personal estimate their content is at least 50 times more than what I'd be willing to pay for it. And yes, I really meant to type 50.

Hypatian wrote:
(details in second post to avoid cluttering the header too much).

Thanks for the in-depth write up. I looked at this game before, with only mild interest. But now I'll keep a closer eye on it.

LobsterMobster wrote:
I really wish CitiesXL was just a game. A complete one. Like SimCity. Why does a definitively single-player experience need to be an MMO?

This.

Hopefully those days aren't gone forever.

I actually like the idea of a pseudo-mmo SimCity style game, where your city is part of a nation of cities on a server with an interlinked economy and so on. That's honestly a pretty awesome idea.

Farscry wrote:
I actually like the idea of a pseudo-mmo SimCity style game, where your city is part of a nation of cities on a server with an interlinked economy and so on. That's honestly a pretty awesome idea.

It is. But is it a $10/month awesome? I don't think so.

Micro-transactions would be a much better model, I think.

Captain_Arrrg wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:
I really wish CitiesXL was just a game. A complete one. Like SimCity. Why does a definitively single-player experience need to be an MMO?

This.

Hopefully those days aren't gone forever.


Other people are asking the same question

What turns me off is the lack of mass transit options in the single player. You have to pay extra for trains & planes.

I don't know if I can get over that. Maybe someday...

Goonch wrote:
What turns me off is the lack of mass transit options in the single player. You have to pay extra for trains & planes.

SC4 shipped without avenues, one-way streets, ground-level highways and elevated rail, among other things. All of that came in the x-pack. I was fine with paying for the expansion (even though it should have been in the original game.)

But a monthly fee for mass transit? No thanks.

Lester_King wrote:
Farscry wrote:
I actually like the idea of a pseudo-mmo SimCity style game, where your city is part of a nation of cities on a server with an interlinked economy and so on. That's honestly a pretty awesome idea.

It is. But is it a $10/month awesome? I don't think so.

Micro-transactions would be a much better model, I think.

Don't forget, I already advocated that as a better model for CitiesXL in this thread. I'm just responding to the complaints of making the game an mmo city sim instead of single-player.

In "my head went all weird on me" vision:

It just occurred to me that a not-very-good-graphics version of the multiplayer of this is something that people would have shelled out $6 an hour for back in the late 80s to early 90s.

$6 an *hour*.

Hypatian wrote:
In "my head went all weird on me" vision:

It just occurred to me that a not-very-good-graphics version of the multiplayer of this is something that people would have shelled out $6 an hour for back in the late 80s to early 90s.

$6 an *hour*.

Yeah. Too bad it's 2009.

Anyone actually get this? Are you *required* to sign up for the monthly fee at start?

Robear wrote:
Anyone actually get this? Are you *required* to sign up for the monthly fee at start?

I'm interested in this question too.

Robear wrote:
Anyone actually get this? Are you *required* to sign up for the monthly fee at start?

I thought this was still in beta or something, for some reason. Since it seems to be commercially available now, I'd really like to know this too. I'm not interested in paying their monthly fee thing.

Anoyne have any feedback on the SP? What's going on with this game? I've been hankering for a simcity style game lately.

if none of us are trying it...

Somebody has to have bought this.

The only 'reviews' I have seen have been impressions from the Simtropolis Forums. Most of the impressions say it has potential but still needs a lot of work. Too bad.

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