Friday, April 1, 2016

Cities: Skylines - 20/20 hours

I have a space elevator!

I thought that my garbage problem was going to doom Roundberg, but I was wrong. My economy was doing so well that I was able to simply buy my way out of the hole. By building incinerator after incinerator until my town was far over capacity, I was able to obviate the inefficiency of my transportation network. The same thing happened a couple hours later when I started to have trouble with body disposal. Being the town with the most per-capita crematoriums might not be the most impressive claim to fame, but it worked. Roundberg grew beyond my wildest expectations, and the collapse I'd feared 10 hours ago never came.

What wound up happening instead was that I hit an equilibrium. After about 100,000 people, my growth rate really dropped off. Sometimes it would dip into the negatives and then I'd demolish some abandoned buildings (a bafflingly pointless chore, by the way) and things would turn around and my numbers would inch upwards again, but at no point did my RCI demand graph budge from zero. There was no call for further dramatic expansions.

Maybe, long-term, the equilibrium might have broken up, but as of hour 20, my population was 103,000 and there was no indication that it would ever get any higher.

Still, I have a space elevator. You see, by reaching various milestones in the course of the game, you can unlock special buildings for your town which, in theory can have a dramatic effect (the Hadron collider, for example, sends your town's education value through the roof). I didn't notice much of a difference with the Space Elevator, but ultimately that didn't matter. I had a freaking space elevator!

The trickiest part of unlocking the special buildings was that some of the prerequisites required you to do foolish things like build 300 municipal buildings or have seven colleges. Others required you to actively tank your city by getting up to 50% crime or unemployment. Luckily, once you unlock a building in one game, it's automatically unlocked in all your other save files, so I was able to fork my town and earn all of the bad buildings in Mirror Roundberg.

The only one I was unable to get was the "build 20,000 commercial squares" building, which would have let me build something called the "Eden Project" which sounds pretty damned cool. Unfortunately, it doesn't count if you just have the squares zoned. Your simulated citizens actually have to develop the plots, so my complete lack of demand pretty much rendered that impossible. Maybe if I'd stuck with it the deadlock would have eventually broken, but for now it was a disappointing way to end my time with the game.

Looking back, I really enjoyed Cities: Skylines. It was a slicker and more sophisticated city-builder than SimCity 4, which is not surprising given that it was released 12 years later (!). I loved the 3-D modeling of the buildings, which let you pan the camera practically down to street level. It really felt like all my various towns were real places I could personally explore. SimCity2000 had an amazing feature where if you had SimCopter or Streets of Simcity, the games would load your city data to create their worlds and you could fly or drive (respectively) down the streets of your virtual town.  I would pay good money to be able to do that in Cities: Skylines.

My biggest regret is that I never mastered the traffic mechanics. Each time, I got a little farther, but as far as I can tell from online research, it was a lack of easy transportation that caused Roundberg to stall. The city budget was thoroughly in the black (to the tune of about 70k a week), the citizens were content (90% happiness), but apparently the thought of navigating to new suburban expansions gave them nightmares.

I think I know where I went wrong, and could possibly correct it in a future save file, but sadly, this is not the game I want to master. It was fun, and I loved seeing my city grow from a humble village to a mighty metropolis, but the mechanics are so fiddly that it would take many hours more to see true improvement. I simply don't have the time.

So, good-bye Cities: Skylines. I may not have been a legendary mayor, but I think I did credibly for a beginner, and I will always look upon with pride the things you let me build. Even the ones that didn't work taught me some valuable lessons.

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