It’s Now 2017: What SimCity 5 (2013) Could Have Been

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SimCity 5 – What it could have (and should) have been

I enjoy building miniature model cities on a computer and I especially enjoy the detail and charm of SimCity 5 (also known as Simcity 2013).  (For the remainder of this post I will refer to the game as Simcity 5)

For me and many other SimCity fans, Simcity 5 had a lot going for it.  Great looking graphics, cool animations, offline mode, and an overall attention to detail.  However, Simcity 5 lacked (and still lacks) one major thing:  A larger playing area (map) to build that sprawling city!   Of course one could introduce a mod (bugs and all) into the game which sort-of allows for a larger map size to build on but that’s not quite the same as having a native game that already includes large maps.

Game Creators Say No To Fans

So why did Maxis refuse to create large map sizes in order to build large cities in its game?  As far as I can tell they skirted around the issue a bit and didn’t specifically address map size but simply claimed larger cities would be difficult to play with on an older computer.

“We’ve put months of investigation into making larger city sizes, reworking the terrain maps, changing the routing algorithms of our agent-based system and altering the way that GlassBox processes the data in a larger space,” general manager Patrick Buechner explained.

“After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn’t be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn’t achieve it within the confines of the engine….”

Really?  So that’s it?  What about including options?  How hard would it have been to create at least two different map sizes, some large and some small, or even customizable maps (even DLC) that the user could choose from?   The reasoning behind Maxis’s decision to not allow larger cities doesn’t work for me.  What is clear is that they didn’t really care it’s us, the consumer and user of the game.  Now it’s 2017 where technology has grown so much that SimCity 5 with larger cities would run great on any gaming computer.  Where’s the vision Maxis or EA? Anyone?

Sadly, we may never see another American based city builder game as charming as SimCity 5 but one that allows players to build larger cities.  And yet, it needn’t be this way, when SimCity 5 was close, so very close to being that game already.


 

Simcity 5 and Cities Skylines

What’s so great about Cities Skylines?

FullyFreeFilms.com

 


Image source is my own in-game Simcity 5 screenshot

 

What’s not to like about SimCity in 2016? A look at SimCity 5 (aka SimCity 2013)

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What SimCity could have been in 2017

SimCity Complete Edition

Although the mass of dust of displeasure over the forced multiplayer online only use in order to play SimCity 5 has mostly settled,   Electronic Arts finally added single-player mode (offline mode) a year later.    And now that it’s been nearly three years since the initial release of SimCity 5, there has been a significant price drop on the complete edition of SimCity,  so I have decided to jump in to see how the latest SimCity stacks up with Cities Skylines.  Cities Skylines it should be noted has received rave reviews by many and even has been proclaimed by some the city builder SimCity should have been (Read my experience here).

Keep in mind that at the time I reviewed/experienced Cities Skylines, I did not own SimCity 5 so my comments related only to my experience with CS.  Now that I own a copy of SimCity 5 let me cut to the chase and tell you what I do like about SimCity and what I don’t like so much.    Along the way I also hope to note a few similarities and differences as it relates to Cities Skylines.

The Good

First it is important to note that I have been playing the complete edition of SimCity with included expansion pack Cities of Tomorrow along with some others (see the complete list here).   With the complete edition of SimCity in single player or offline mode, I have found the game pleasantly fun to play,  slightly challenging (especially as one gets use to the various specializations available) but the game does not involve too much micro management to still have fun and for me the graphics and sounds have been a treat for the eyes and ears alike.

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Graphics and Sound

I think graphically speaking,  SimCity looks better as a whole and the models are rendered cleaner than they are in Cities Skylines.   Out of the box the colors are certainly rich,  vibrant and more appealing in SimCity and the buildings and city models are fun to watch and hear.    To me it’s as if the player is watching a quality Disney/Pixar movie animation unfold that you get to be a part of!    The sounds in SimCity are also well done.  They are light and fun as if I was a kid playing in a toy store with bells, whistles and thematic music to top it off.  And for me the game is not filled with over-the-top repetitive or annoying sounds at least that I have discovered yet.     And with the expansion packs, a player is allowed to direct and form the kind of city he/she would like to build, whether it be amusement oriented, a gambling touristic mecca, trading hub, futuristic style, etc it’s up to him or her.   These are all reasons I love what I see so far in SimCity 5.

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My Lower End Machine Experience

Another thing I like about SimCity is how well it seems to run on my lower end machine with a not-so-great graphics card (gts 250).    Even with lower in-game graphics settings the game still renders a fantastic looking game.   In Cities Skylines with mods, it takes a toll on my lower end computer and gpu.  In CS on my computer the edges of buildings for example cannot be rendered smooth as in SimCity even with a mod to do it.

 

American Made

A final reason I like playing SimCity is….get ready for it…….drum roll please……….well, it’s American based!  I didn’t think this would be such a big deal but after playing Cities Skylines for many days and hours I noticed I was beginning to feel a little culture shock.  Weird?  yeah I think so too.   With SimCity being American made, it shows.    For me, it just looks, feels and plays like a Pixar movie complete with a fantasy style rendering of a classic American city.  And out of the box without the use of mods,  default American style buildings, vehicles and train tracks makes SimCity feel like something I might find in my backyard.    Cities Skylines even with mods, still feels European with an old-style glaze to it (I’m gonna take a wild guess here and say this is probably due to the fact Cities Skylines was made over seas and not in America).

 

The Not-So-Good

There are at least a few things I have discovered about SimCity that I do not like.   For starters, SimCity comes with small map sizes available to build on.  This can be frustrating when one just wishes to build a larger sprawling city rather than a small city that can only go up.    The map size department is where Cities Skylines got it right.   These types of large expandable maps are what SimCity needs to make it even better than it already is.   However, I will note that SimCity allows for the creation of multiple cities that connect to each other within a region.   This is a neat feature of the game because you can simply move around a region to create different cities each with its own style and specialization or you can simply create various (although small land wise) cities to try out new features.   Cities Skylines on the other hand allows the creation of one mega city in a region which can get overwhelming with the micro-management necessary to keep the city healthy.   This one reason as it sits right now, that if you want the best of both worlds you have to play both games.

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Map size in SimCity

Although SimCity now has a Single-player/offline mode which definitely should have been part of the game from the start,  I do wonder why EA decided keep us linked so closely to an Origin account.  In fact in order to play the game you must log in to an Origin account (where the game was purchased) and keep the same Origin ID as your mayor name for every city you build.   This seems silly especially if you wanted to build multiple cities in a region under a different mayor name as was the case in past SimCity games.

One other thing that SimCity lacks is great modification abilities by users (such as is the case with CS) for mods in-game such as regions, expanded maps or more roads and buildings.  I also wish the game speed was a bit slower or at least a mod was available to slow it down as is in Cities Skylines.  The mod complaints I have are only minor because if SimCity was built with larger maps or with the included option to create larger maps in the first place the game would be nearly perfect without mods.

(UPDATE:   I implied that mods were not much a part of SimCity 5 but after getting more involved with SimCity have since discovered I am wrong about that.   There ARE actually quite a few decent game changing mods that make SimCity 5 even better than the vanilla game.   Some notable mods I have found are Larger Map Sizes aka Project Orion (although a bit glitchy it still works), RCI plop mod (project Avalon) which allows all buildings available and ploppable, project Akar (more roads and new user interface), and many other game enhancements.  If you are interested about modding SimCity 5, a great modding location is Simtropolis or SkyeStorme’s site.)

So how does SimCity 5 compare to Cities Skylines?   I think it probably depends mostly on you, the game player.  Since each person is different, we like and dislike different (or similar) things about a game.  But as it stands right now, I think it’s great to be able to play and enjoy both games.  Therefore the simple fact remains, both SimCity (2013) and Cities Skylines are very different games (aside from being city builders) and are far from being the same!


What SimCity 5 could have been in 2017

SimCity (2013)

Cities Skylines

Simtropolis

SkyeStorme Mod Site

Project Akar (SimCity UI enhancement mod)

Audacity Movie

180movie


images are my own in-game screenshots

What’s so great about Cities Skylines?

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Cities Skylines

UPDATE 6-19-16:  I have since gotten a copy of SimCity (2013).  Read about my SimCity (2013) (aka SimCity 5) experience here.

 

What is Cities Skylines?

Cities Skylines is a city builder game similar in-game play to the popular SimCity building series.  After having time to play Cities Skylines I wanted to share some aspects of the game that I have found disappointing and discuss some issues I have yet to find discussed elsewhere online.   Of course there are great things to like about the game and I do.

A note about outside reviews and opinions of the game

Even though Cities Skylines is over a year old now it seems like a great game to play based on YouTube videos and online reviews.  And all the reviews and opinions I have found online about Cities Skylines paint the game in a purely positive light while many criticize SimCity 2013 (aka SimCity 5) mostly for its once needed persistent online connection.      It is important to note up front I have do not have much experience playing the latest SimCity 5 (aside from a free 2 hour trial) but have purchased Cities Skylines and have played it many hours.  (Read my updated SimCity 5 experience here)  My comments will be made mostly about the gameplay of Cities Skylines based on personal experience and opinion.

First, I will start by saying I have quite enjoyed Cities Skylines and believe it to be well worth what it costs (around $30) for the base or vanilla version of the game.   However,  it is also important to note I am using a graphics card below the game’s recommended specs so my comments will be strictly content related in nature rather than performance based.   (Additional note:  despite using a gpu and older computer below the recommended game specs I have gotten surprisingly decent game playing experiences along with a few crashes due to modding.)

Now as I have already mentioned, the game is worth buying for its price but user-created content and mods make it even better.    My problems with Cities Skylines come from the fact it is a European based game and it shows.   Being an American and living in the United States there are game oddities in the vanilla version of the game that have been somewhat hard to overcome without a mod.  In fact, the Cities Skylines I play today includes quite a bit of user-created content such as Mods and Assets that vastly improve the game where it is lacking mechanically or visually or both.

American User Created Content and Mods

However, if one is looking for the game to be American in style without mods it can be lacking.   Even when searching for user-created content to Americanize the game, I have found styles and content to be overwhelming foreign or European based.   Don’t get me wrong I have found some American style created content such as American Roads or American sirens for emergency vehicles and even American style buildings, trains, planes, and other vehicles–but just a few.  Although the European based styles are ok as options I would love to see more American variety besides New York City.     What about rural Humboldt California, USA?

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European Styles

As already mentioned,  the vanilla game in my opinion is not very visually American (besides the default option of having vehicles driving on the right-side of streets) but the default building styles are no different.  The included European looking buildings appear old and outdated lacking color and I didn’t much American style included without adding some user-created content found on Steam.

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In game European Style Buildings

Trains

I don’t believe overhead electric cables are the norm for many American rail systems across this great country unless we’re talking about a tram, cable or light rail system.   The rail system in the heartland is open track (without overhead electrical lines) with diesel-powered locomotives rolling on them such as BNSF, Southern Pacific or Amtrak.

Before you jump on me for mentioning the games lack of American style train tracks without an overhead electrical line,  I use a Mod that removes the overhead cable on train tracks  and it works great.   However, I have yet to find an American style passenger station asset without the overhead electrical cables!

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Passenger Train Station with overhead cables
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American Style Rail and Train

Trucks

The include trucks, buses and other included vehicles overall also have a distinct European look many of us in the United States will find foreign looking.   However, this foreign “look” can be somewhat remedied (like the overhead cabled train tracks) by adding some user-created American style vehicle assets which have been a welcome addition to my game experience.     But keep an eye open for me as I am still looking for an American semi-truck trailer without 3 wheels on the back axle!

Simulation Speed

If you are seeking realism in a city builder Cities Skylines has some.   I say some because it’s a game.   Now I don’t expect the game to be real to life in every possible way imaginable because after all it’s a simulation and it’s suppose to be fun.    Yet, I do think some mechanics tweaks could be achieved to make it a little more fun.  For me, one in particular is the simulation speed when the game is running at its lowest setting.

To clarify, by speed I am not referring to performance or frame-rate but the simulation game-play speed.   The vanilla game includes three simulation speed modes, slow, medium and fast.  This is the rate at which the cars and people move on the street and buildings are erected within the simulation.   Having a high-speed is a great option when you want buildings to grow fast or simulation time increased to build the city’s income.   However, in my opinion the slowest speed is still too fast.  Cars and people buzz around as if they have been put on fast forward and are little bees buzzing about on speed juice.   At times, it can be almost hard to watch when I just want things to slow down to a more realistic pace.    Yes, once again there is a mod for this.  Introducing a slow game mod to the vanilla game does wonders for more realism.   My question is, why didn’t the game creators include a slower mode with the base (vanilla) game?

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Small Town

Final Assessment of Cities Skylines

Even with my minor frustrations for Cities Skylines vanilla not being more American looking by default, or an overly speedy simulation even on slow,   I do think Cities Skylines is an excellent city building game worth purchasing–even if you live in the United States.    The game is fun to play and challenging especially with mods and other user-created content.    In fact, I think finding great user-created buildings, models and mods is all part of the fun.       So if you are still on the fence about whether to purchase Cities Skylines and you have a computer with at least 8 gigs of ram and 1 gig  included on the graphics card (GPU) (recommended 16 gigs ram and 2 gigs graphics) then I think Cities Skylines is a great buy.      See full specs on this game here

Read about my updated SimCity (2013) (aka SimCity 5) experience here.

 

Related Interest

Cities Skylines

Hope

Audacity