From The House To The City

I haven’t heard a word from Origin about my Sims 4 content that went missing on August 15th. Theoretically, I have several service tickets open, since their system generates a new service ticket every time I ask about the first one. But I haven’t received so much as an acknowledgement that the service tickets were received.

I’ve considered cutting the losses and continuing my game. I used to love playing The Sims 4. But now I really miss Phillip’s Romani House, and I’m afraid playing the game will make me miss it even more. Besides, I don’t know what else is missing from my game beyond what can be seen from the neighborhood level (Sims, relationships, achievements, etc). Besides, I don’t know what will disappear in the future as I continue to play. I want my game fixed.

I can’t bring myself to give up and delete the game.

So, for now, The Sims 4 is in limbo.

I’ve been playing The Sims 2 on the laptop, but, having played The Sims 4, I’m now frustrated by the incredibly long load time, the stiffness of the Sims, and the inferior graphics.

I want to get back to Kerbal Space Program, but recent updates have improved the game physics and made space flight much more challenging. In other words, I have some re-learning to do.

The game that’s eating up my time these days is Cities: Skylines. This is a city-building simulation game, very much in the style of SimCity, from a Finnish company named Colossal Order. I’m playing it through Steam, which I’m currently loving a lot more than Origin.

Cities: Skylines has its share of graphics glitches (cars driving through other cars, and so on), but I’ve never encountered a major bug, and I’ve never had the game crash on me. (I’ve never had game content disappear, either.)

I’ve played every version of SimCity (except SimCity Societies) and I think Cities: Skylines is better than them all. I love the attention to detail that Cities: Skylines gives while still functioning on a citywide level.

I love that City: Skylines not only supports mods and custom content, it actually encourages it. It encourages it so much that player-created content is readily available, for free, through the official Steam Workshop. (Of course, popular mods seem to have a way of making their way into game updates.) There is a lot to this game, and a lot that can be added to it.

I don’t know how many thousands of hours I’ve played Cities: Skylines. I’ve built four cities which each reached a point of collapse, due to poor planning and inexperience on my part. But with each city failure, and with the help of YouTube, I’m learning the game and I’m getting better at it.

Cities: Skylines is my type of game. It combines creativity and puzzle-solving. Sometimes, it’s fun to just sit back and watch the city operate. (The game is so detailed that it’s possible to watch a single citizen commute home from work.)

I’m now well into my fifth city, the city of Filbert. It’s reached the top milestone, “Megalopolis”, and its population is around 100,000 citizens. (I’ve heard them referred to as Cims, but I don’t know if that’s an official name.) Filbert is doing well, it’s survived a couple of crises, it’s showing no sign of collapse, and there’s still room for growth.

fibert-at-night

Filbert on a rainy night

I’m getting the hang of this game.

First Crisis: When I started Filbert, I put in the requested amount of industrial zoning. Since this was too early in the game for industry specialization, this grew into high-pollution factories. Since the area was polluted anyway, I put the garbage dumps (later to be replaced by garbage incinerators) nearby. I put in tram lines (this game has a rather European feel to it) so workers wouldn’t have to live too close to the pollution.

The city of Filbert grew up around this polluted ground. Eventually, I became dissatisfied with that pocket of pollution in the middle of the city. I moved the incinerators to an open field out of town. Since the city had plenty of low-pollution industry, in the form of farming and timber industries, with room for more, I bulldozed the factories and re-zoned the area for office buildings. I left the “Statue of Industry” there, as a memorial to the city’s history.  The pollution cleared up (in the middle of the city, anyway), offices sprung up, and Filbert prospered.

statue-of-industry

The Statue of Industry, with factories in the background

The problem was solved.

Then businesses started failing. Shops closed, and commercial buildings were abandoned. The problem, I discovered, was that the shops had nothing to sell, since there were no factories producing goods.

I learned that the type of industrial zoning is as important as the amount of industrial zoning.

I built a new industrial area, with no specialization, out of town, and the polluting factories returned. Some shops opened, but many more did not. I waited for business to improve, but it did not.

Eventually, I realized that traffic in Filbert was so heavy that trucks were having a tough time driving from the factories to the shops in a timely manner.

I put in a rail line between a freight terminal near the factories and a freight terminal near the shops. I made the rails elevated the whole way, so traffic wouldn’t be an issue. Shops began to re-open and business thrived.

industrial-line

Busy freight terminal

This time, the problem really was solved, and I was beginning to understand how trains worked in Cities: Skylines.

The Other Crisis: From the beginning of Filbert, I wanted trains to be important to the city. Using lessons learned from previous cities, I kept freight tracks separate from passenger tracks as much as possible, to avoid train traffic jams. There were a couple of spots were freight trains and passenger trains shared the same tracks, but they didn’t share them for long.

passenger-train

A passenger train passing farmland

When the city became rather large, something I’d never seen occurred. Trains were jammed to a standstill on the single line of tracks outside of the city limits, and causing trains inside the city to be stuck. Since the jams were occurring outside of the city, where I couldn’t edit anything, I had no idea how to fix this. I turned to forums and YouTube for the answer.

The advice I found was to reduce the budget for the trains, and thus reduce the number of trains entering and leaving the city.

I did that, and it worked for a while. Then the jams returned. I turned to forums and YouTube again.

That’s when I learned about rail lines – which are different from rail tracks. All this time, I had been under the idea that all I had to do was place a station near a popular location, connect it to an outside connection, and people would ride the trains, and goods would be distributed. (In my defense, this is how streets work in the game.)

I learned that it was possible to have heavy-rail commuter lines which never leave the city. I made a loop from this station to this station to this station, and back around to the start – the same way I create a bus line, or a tram line, or a metro line. It’s possible to create a freight line between factories and shops. (This seems obvious to me now, and I somehow never noticed that little icon that looks like a bus stop.)

train-line

Ah-ha!

This one discovery not only cleared up the outside train jams, it boosted the weekly ridership numbers at several passenger train stations from single digits to triple digits.

Now I need to do something about that traffic.

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4 thoughts on “From The House To The City

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