GWJ Strategy Club Game April 2023: Cities: Skylines

The Spring 2023 strategy club title is Cities: Skylines, which we will be playing from April 1 to June 30, 2023.

Steam Link

Cities: Skylines is a modern take on the classic city simulation. The game introduces new game play elements to realize the thrill and hardships of creating and maintaining a real city whilst expanding on some well-established tropes of the city building experience.

If you're new to the club, please check out the main thread.

I'm in, though it may be a couple of weeks before I get to it.

I've never actually played a city builder before (missed Sim City completely), and yet somehow I have the base game and the vast majority of DLC for C:S now because of Humble Bundle. Should be fun to finally get into it. There's no grand designs on building a huge city or the perfect cyberpunk dystopia or anything. Just something coherent.

And as I mentioned in the main thread, I think I have one spare key for the base game. First person to PM me for it gets it.

Installed the old PS+ freebie for PS4 on my PS5. We'll dip a toe in and try

I’ll be playing this at some point during the next couple of weeks.

I'm in! As soon as my planning application has been approved, I'll start constructing.

Oh, interesting, I have wanted to play this again for a long while. Might be the opportunity.

It's been a while since I last played a "present day" city builder.

Unfortunately, I've got a bunch of travelling happening this week, so, it'll be over a week before I can fire it up.

While I wait, any recommendations on maps to play? There are a bunch on the workshop that are highly rated.

I also got the Humble bundle with all the DLC at the time last year, so I have a base game key and an Industries key available, usual rules.

The City Planner Plays tutorial is quite good- he starts with the base game then adds in DLC one at a time as he expands.

For the maps, I recommend one with all the resource types (although you can create Forests yourself just by plunking down a lot of trees lol), a river, outside rail connection and at least 70% useable land. This will give you the most flexibility in building stuff. Some of the more interesting maps, like ones with a lot of water or islands or steep hills, are for more niche builds that can really challenge you.

Outside of that, pick the climate and layout you enjoy.

Up to about 1700 citizens. Already my small roundabout is getting a bit crowded. And I need a high school, definitely my next purchase when I level up. Sooooo many residential zones...

I have heard many good things about this. Definitely in for this one. I never really got to a point where I felt like I understand old world so it'll be fun to tackle something different

I hope you like it, Wembley! Ask here or in the game thread if you have questions. As above, I'm a fan of the City Planner Builds videos, he's got at least two start-from-scratch-in-Vanilla series, of which watching even one is enough to get you going on a solid footing.

Don't expand too quickly. You're not intended to buy everything that opens up when you level up a city, as it levels up. Instead, keep in mind the *needs* of the city - the RCI meter, services, stuff like that - and add them in as the need grows. You don't have to keep the RCI meters at zero, not at all; what's most important is that you don't build so much infrastructure and services that you start to run a negative balance and/or (if you neglect them) people consistently leave your city. In either case you need to correct that problem quickly.

It seems safe to put taxes at 12% on your zones, btw. That will help bring in more money. Might slow growth a bit but so will a lack of cash.

Right. Two starts now on the Foggy Hills. I've got my headspace back in the city builder mode and I'm ready to start a "for real" map. Before I do, some questions:

- would love some map suggestions, though Foggy Hills seems OK
- Is there a way (mod?) of seeing a history graph of things like populations, cash flow, happiness?
- Is it possible to see the effective range of a service building after it's been placed?
- Cash flow seems to be tricky. Every time I expand I go into the red, leaving zoned areas without water until I can afford the water/sewer pipes. Gotta add less roads, I guess.

I'm loving the "living city" aspect, enjoying watching buildings getting built or upgraded. When I'm waiting for more money, I love zooming into maximum zoom and just walking around. I saw the Oscar Weiner car today, coming from a garment factory on the way to a clothes store

I go for maps with greater than about 65% or so usable land, plus at least forest resources, plus train connection. Ship connection can be cool too.

I *believe* you can get history stuff from the Budget pages? But maybe not. I need to poke around and see.

When you are in placement mode, look at the color of the buildings. They will go from red to green. Green is good. Before you place the building, you can move it around, and as you do, roads will turn green. That's the range of benefit if you were to place it there. As you place the building, hopefully in an area where buildings are darker than other places, you will see happy faces wash out away from the building. That's the effective area.

Okay, for building new areas, always run your water under your roads. Initially, you don't need to make your areas gigantic with tons of roads before adding water and power. Just put in some roads, run the water underneath the roads only as much as you need to supply (you don't want to overlap), and make sure you have high tension electric connections into your power supply area. Also hold back enough money for your water supply and outflow, and to get power and water pipes to them.

So, don't try to grid out big parts of your city. Do it a neighborhood at a time, following the advice of the RCI meter. And remember the "Highway (to six-lane) to Connector (4 lanes) to small roads (2 lanes) hierarchy". You don't want to build busy things on your Connectors; save that for stuff like schools and park entrances and such. And you don't have to connect every road on both ends. Often leaving one entrance to a residential area, where it feeds out into a Connector, is a good thing.

The more intersections you have, the worse your traffic will be as people take longer to get to their destinations as they keep slowing and stopping for cross traffic. So play with longer, wider blocks, small roads that end just shy of a building plot, and stuff like Offices for Connector frontage. That's not hard and fast, but it will help.

And finally, vehicles take the fastest route between two points that you give them. So if you have industries off to one side, and build two nice Connectors on the "bottom" and "top" of the neighborhoods, guess what? The one that gives the shortest path will be used and the other neglected. Rethink your layout. You can even get rid of industry zones along your connector, so there won't be trucks constantly turning in and out and impeding the flow. Get creative.

Never let your Industrial trucks path through a Residential neighborhood. Creates not just traffic but noise, and the citizens complain and leave the area.

Thanks for the tips and the video recommendation, Robear. They have been very helpful. Is there a negative effect if I drop parks and such over residential buildings? I find my early areas could use some greenery for their happiness but there is no room for it. The City Planner videos talk about not using eminent domain a lot but I don't know if that is an actual game mechanic or just the guy editorializing based on what I assume are real life considerations for his day job.

It is him joking about real-life considerations that have no consequences in vanilla CS. Of course there are mods for that...

The only effects are those of forcing some families out of where they live. They may or may not resettle in the city, but someone will come to occupy a house elsewhere in the city in a short time. You lose a bit of tax income.

Sometimes I build a city park (as opposed to a dog park or the like) in the middle of a large area, where I might usually run a road in and build a subdivision, and then I grow it out slowly taking over the outer buildings until I reach the street. Then I can decide whether to fill in the street or go elsewhere and build another park. Depends on what level I want the park to be and whether it is making money or not.

Always good to have a mass transit stop hard by the park, too, to bring people in. Don't forget to zone it as a park, there are park-only policies that are worth using.

I started a new city 3 times before I got the starting size to the point I didn't run out of money!

New city is up at 8,500 pop and small pockets of high density residential zones.

The roundabout trick for your entry point works really well...until you get to about 7,500. I'm probably going to need to purchase a new zone and feed the intercity traffic from another entry point - they're choking up on a bridge across the river where the folks on the other side need to cross over - but they're using the same damn 4-lane collector road!

You can enlarge the roundabout pretty easily if you have cash lying around. And make it one-way, and turn off the lights and stop signs.

Yeah, upgrading the entire roundabout to a highway really helped with traffic flow; I also fixed the bridge pileup by creating one-way streets so that traffic trying to get back to the highway is forced not to cross paths with incoming traffic.

The issue was being compounded by a budding agricultural industry across the river; that meant a lot of truck traffic which normal industry zones were isolated from the residential zones were now being mixed. I'll probably use another highway exit/entry point closer to that side of the city if I continue to expand the food industry.

The town is now 9,200 and has zero public transport:)

I've got 100k credits banked up but had to spend big to get on top of a crazy rubbish problem. Trash burners and recycling stations were installed en masse so hopefully this will sort it out.

Wow, this game is a memory hog. I guess 16GB isn't all that any more, but with no mods and all DLC through last summer, the game no longer starts for me. I'm trying to decide if it's worth doing the suggested thing and stepping up swap space to 32GB; I guess I can but that's ridiculous.

Go to 32GB ram. RAM is cheap. Swapping sucks.

After many false starts, I finally got something going. Currently at population ~11,700 and bought more 2 squares (whatever they are called in game) . Running 4 bus lines currently.

Some complaints (I only complain because I care):
I hate most of the maps in the game. Not because they look poor or anything but the starts are mostly dumb. Why would anyone build a city starting in these spots? I wish you had some choice about where to start. Also it makes replaying a map less enjoyable because you start here, have to do this thing here and handle that elevation change like this, etc. until hey you made the same thing again!

I also dislike how the game hands out upgrades. Just give me the goodies. Either I have to wait for a milestone to hit for something I need or the game gives me stuff I can't use for a long time.

Night time is cool except I cannot see anything to do anything. I have to wait until the sun comes back up to do simple stuff like lay road or zone. Or turn it off.

The house models look the same. It is a little immersion breaking to see that house with the red roof all over town. Small gripe solved by the workshop but still a gripe.

The road building tool is very fiddly - all the line drawing tools are but roads are used the most. Doing anything beyond a simple grid feels a lot like work.

Some kudos:
The DLCs are fun. I like the parks one especially. I am going to add some industries in my new squares and see how that goes.

The game still looks pretty good.

If you are willing to put in the work, you can do some amazing looking things.

All in all, been having fun with it, despite some frustrations. The new DLCs released since last I played add some new freshness to the game and will probably keep me going for a while. Thanks to the club for reacquainting me with an old, not exactly friend but maybe acquaintance I remember somewhat positively.

Many of the maps are designed to be challenging, and of course cities spring up around water and road connections. But the level of challenge is directly related to the percentage of usable land. That's why I recommend starting with the ones with lots of usable land and at least Forests and Railroad connections. Beyond that, you can use the editor to make your own. Beyond that, one way to go is to change up how you do things, so that you *don't* do everything the same way each time. Min/maxing is a recipe for repetition in this game. Further, things are much more interesting when you deliberately curve roads, make big or odd-shaped blocks (often with dead-end roads reaching inside them) and generally do things in an aesthetically pleasing way rather than grid grid grid. (Of course until you hit around 7500 people you'll probably start with grids, to save money, but see below.)

When you go to set up a game, and you don't want to go through the milestones, you can go to Content Manager and into the Mods menu. There are four built-in mods; two of them are "Unlimited Money" and "Unlock All Buildings". Then set up your game as usual. That will create a Sandbox mode game to do whatever you want from the start. There is an entire sub-game of people who duplicate their own cities using this method of play.

There is an option to brighten your cursor at night, and you can also simply turn up the brightness of the monitor. Also, check your monitor settings. If you have HDR turned on correctly, you should have quite bright screens where the colors pop, so you can see what's going on at night. But I find that if I misconfigure that, my screen is quite dark in all modes. Your monitor mode needs to match the Windows mode. (Just a thought.)

I believe you can set "Themes" for Districts. There should be a menu that allows that on the main District page. The theme will change the overall look of the buildings - Northern European, Mediterranean, etc. Plus, some DLCs add different types of buildings buildings, again put in place with the District selections. So you can set up a "Downtown Korea" District, or use the modern "Wall to Wall Buildings" to get that Mixed Use appearance (although of course we'll likely have to wait for actual mixed use (vertical zoning, in a sense) in CS2). If the District is already built, you can unzone the buildings, wait till they are pulled down, then rezone to get the new look - buildings won't switch looks on their own. You can even freeze the appearance of buildings and areas you like by designating them as "historic" - this can create protected neighborhoods, kind of like what you see in small towns that have been subsumed by urban areas.

The road-laying is fiddly, especially the pgup/pgdn use to connect underground elements. You won't even get the underground screen if you don't pop pgdn once from ground level. But you do get used to it. Big thing to remember is that for curves, you're drawing a straight line to an apex that is perpendicular to the widest part of the intended curve. The second point sets the end point of the curve. The game shows you that as you draw, so once you get used to it it's really fast. But I bet they make it easier in the new game.

Note that you can use the default settings for what goes into a district (so, Industrial areas pollute heavily, Residences are all low density, etc.) or you can, *before* you zone, go into the District menu and select a zone style. There are, for example, low and high density Residential and Commercial zones, Financial Zones, Organic Commercial, Self-Sufficient Residential buildings (I think that's the name), Wall to Wall buildings, Pedestrian Only areas... And industries (Forest, Oil, Mining). The important takeaway is that the Zone type you lay down is a *combination* of the settings you chose in the Zone menu AND in the District selection tab for that type of Zone. Again - Zones are modified in the Zones menu, but ALSO in the District tab for that Zone type. Can't stress this enough, it's not obvious.

Now the thing about Industries is that you have to remember to specify the industry type in the District tab as well as the Zone menu to activate the specialized industries sub-game. So you can have low and high density industry Zones, each with its own building palette. And you can set either of those to be, say, Forest related industries. But if you leave it at that, you'll just import most of your wood products from outside, and export to Commercial and distant demand.

What you can do with the Industries DLC is to then select, in the District menu, the actual Forest Industry type. This opens up a new progression of buildings that actually implements tree farms, logging buildings, paper and furniture factories, sawmills, and many other specialized buildings that you actually place. These are the big Industrial areas you see in screenshots. But if you don't set the District AND the Zone to be the specialized Industrial area types, you won't actually see them. You'll just have some regular Zones that focus on the type of Industry you asked for.

For me, the interface is still overly complicated, but once I remember where things are I'm okay. BTW, pedestrian paths (which connect sidewalks) are different from Park Paths, have much more variety, and are found in the little shovel menu on the right hand side of the bar. Those provide you with a bike and pedestrian friendly system of neighborhood "cut throughs" and connections that can reduce road traffic. This can give you the ability to use long, deep blocks with scenic, curving paths instead of road grids for everything. (You still need the road connections for buildings, of course.) If the paths end by a mass transit location, your Cims will use the paths to get there instead of walking around the blocks, then hop on the Metro to go where they need.

I had to play the free version on Games Pass as my boy was gaming on his (my former) Steam account. Oh boy, the UI is completely different and took a while to get used to.

The Games Pass version allows you to enable the unlimited money and all unlocked "cheats" from Day 1. Honestly though, the initial unlocks to 7,500 help you acclimate to the various city demands so I'd recommend playing with unlocks unless you're a veteran at this game.

I did get to a 7,500+ city, this time using a much more grid-like layout. It felt lifeless even more so than the one I had with some curved roads but mostly grid.

One thing I'd like to work on is a highway - arterial - collector system of roads within the starting "square" - retrofitting transit infrastructure is a nightmare.

I find retrofits are pretty easy to do once you have the cash. And the arterial-collector-small road system can be build up easily - when you get the cash, upgrade the small road that connects into your "mainline" to a 4-lane 2-way Collector and you're off.

Later on you can bulldoze elements and break up the grid into more interesting designs. You really only need a grid to start off with.

For fun I also installed SimCity (2013) and it’s still an incredible looking game. It’s too bad EA murdered the franchise and didn’t give that team a chance to iterate on the design and fix the issues that EA created for them.

Finally jumped (back) into this after playing around with both it and SimCity (2013) a bit. Up to 1200 people after a 45 minutes or so. Mostly grid at this point, but I'll branch out a bit as the money starts coming in.

I haven't got the DLC but from watching City Planner Plays' videos I think the ability to really break out of the grid might come from the Industries Campus and other content that go beyond your standard RCI considerations.

This is Reddit's take on the various DLCs and ranking by different uses. I'd put Green Cities a little higher, but that's a personal take.

... Most Popular Most Recommended Most Highly Desired "Definitive" Ranking
1. Mass Transit (-) Mass Transit (-) Mass Transit (-) Mass Transit (-)
2. Industries (+1) Industries (-) Airports (*) Industries (-)
3. Parklife (+1) Parklife (-) Industries (-1) Parklife (-)
4. After Dark (-2) After Dark (-) Parklife (-1) After Dark (-)
5. Green Cities (+1) Green Cities (+1) After Dark (+2) Green Cities (+2)
6. Snowfall (-1) Campus (-1) Sunset Harbor (-) Campus (-1)
7. Sunset Harbor (+1) Airports (*) Campus (-2) Airports (*)
8. Campus (-1) Snowfall (-) Green Cities (-4) Snowfall (-1)
9. Natural Disasters (-) Sunset Harbor (-2) Snowfall (-) Sunset Harbor (-1)
10. Airports (*) Natural Disasters (-1) Natural Disasters (-1) Natural Disasters (-1)

I keep trying to mess around with the Cities Skylines and have used some of the tutorial videos to try to get things off the ground, but it's not quite clicking for me. I might just not be in the right headspace right now to try to learn a fiddly Paradox game, even if it's much more chill than the EUs and the CKs. I'll probably keep trying at it from time to time since I'm interested in city builders (never played SimCity but I know people loved it), but for now it's not quite working.