Cities: Skylines: Death to Chirpy!

By Shamus
on Mar 22, 2015
Filed under:
Video Games

Chirpy is the fictional Twitter in the Skylines world. Through it, you can see what your citizens are saying and worrying about. The cool thing is that it’s part joke, part world-building, part brandingThe devs refer to players as “Chirpies”., and partly an effort to show that unlike Sim City, this game is set more or less in the present.

On the other hand, Chirper is awful.

Really awful. This is a bad and terrible feature, which seems to serve no other purpose than to reduce your enjoyment of the game. The design is so bad that it’s hard to nail down where it all went wrong. It has numerous problems that all combine and feed into each other to form a massive feedback loop of suck.

Yes, it’s a small feature in a big game. But that only makes it more mystifying how there are so many problems with something so small…

1. Chirpy is full of jactivists.

I hate these people.
Hey Lorax, we’re chopping down and re-planting a couple of acres of trees in the middle of this vast forest. And if you have a problem with that, then WHY DID YOU MOVE TO A TOWN BUILT ON LOGGING? #MoveAwayAlready #Dipshit

As in: Jackasss activists. Those people that take a good cause that we all agree with and make it into something tedious, patronizing, unpalatable, or irritating. Like PETA. Most of us hate animal cruelty, but when PETA does something stupid and pointlessly controversial you find otherwise reasonable people saying, “THIS MAKES ME WANT TO EAT A PUPPY.” There are reasons why this happens, but that’s not the point.

The point is, the hashtag-using Chirpers come off as the worst sort of cause-boosting, preachy, condescending little bumper-sticker activists ever devised. If you do something they like, they’re smug. If you do something they dislike, they’re sanctimonious.

I’m sure that’s completely realistic. I’m sure that if you’re in government your citizens frequently come off as arrogant, ignorant, and entitled. But I don’t think we’re here for that kind of realism. I mean, if we’re looking for realism then I’ll point out how realistic it is to have to fight with the city council for six months and get three dozen permits just to form a committee so you can launch a study to investigate getting a quote from a contractor so you can propose a change in the budget to re-configure a dangerous intersection. That’s realistic, but I don’t want to play the videogame version of that.

These are your citizens and you’re supposed to care for them, and right away Chirper makes you wish you had the Sim City disaster tool at your disposalYou can get your revenge if you put the sewer outflow upstream from your water supply and murder the whole place with cholera. But that feels less like a natural disaster and more like straight-up biological warfare.. And it only gets worse as the game goes on because…

2. The Game is designed to maximize their complaints.

In the early game, you get financial rewards when you hit certain milestones. It also activates new obligations for you to manage. So you hit (say) 300 people and suddenly both schools and clinics are unlockedOr something like that. I can’t remember the actual order.. But your lump sum will only be big enough to build either a school or a clinic. And the chirpers with bitch about whichever one you put off. So you build a clinic and for the next five minutes you get bombarded with condescending stuff like: (Paraphrase.)

How hard is it to build a school? #EducationMatters #ChildrenAreTheFuture

Ugh.

And then you hit 500 people and you get another lump sum. And it unlocks fire departments. So now you can either afford a fire department or the school. (Protip: Fire department. The fires in this game are ridiculously common and your idiot citizens will begin lighting themselves on fire the instant the fire station is available.)

So basically you spend the first half hour or so of the game with your citizens continually haranguing you and passive-aggressively telling you how horrible you are at your job. Yes, you can save up enough money to shut them up early by forgoing your city expansion. But are you really willing to sit idle and put off your plans just to placate these insufferable pricks? I wasn’t.

You might argue that this hostility is there to reflect real-world political arguments but…

3. Chirper is a thousand voices with one thing to say.

If you pass a recycling law in the real world, it will be controversial. Some people will love it. Other people will think it’s dumb busywork that does no good. Another person is behind the idea in principle, but resents the fact that they have to sort their tiny load of trash while Monolith Burger down the street gets to fill a dumpster with unsorted trash twice a week. Another thinks recycling is a nice idea, but there are more pressing problems to spend this money on. Another person thinks the wrong things are being recycled. Another thinks that the recycling law doesn’t go far enough, or isn’t enforced enough. Another thinks the rule impacts [disadvantaged group] for the benefit of [powerful group]. And so on.

In Chirper, everyone loves to recycle. Instead of differing opinions to give the world texture, they repeat the same things to each other. They speak with the editorializing voice of the game designer, who is telling you that policy X is an unambiguous good.

So it’s a wearisome echo chamber. This is bad, because…

4. Chirper is your central source for bad news.

Chirpy is your replacement for the “newspaper” feature of Sim City, and also a replacement for the Sim City advisers. This is how you find out about stuff going wrong. This is how the game tells you about disasters that are brewing. You’re supposed to read this entire feed and look out for complaints about problems.

I turned it off to save my sanity, but there’s no other signal in the game that anything is going wrong. So often I’d pull the camera back from some fiddly traffic snarl I’d been working on to find (say) that a whole neighborhood is now complete desolation because I accidentally cut their power and didn’t know about it until I swung the camera around.

Why does the mayor need to follow the entire city on “Twitter” to know what’s happening?

But even when you do see a disaster message, you can’t know if it’s for real at first because…

5. Many messages are glitchy noise.

Is something wrong with the morgue? Oh. Nope. It’s just one of those pointless messages to tell me about a problem I’m not having.
Is something wrong with the morgue? Oh. Nope. It’s just one of those pointless messages to tell me about a problem I’m not having.

When a new house is built, there’s a couple of seconds between the time the house is done and the moment the power and water kick in. And during that brief second, the inhabitant will often hit Chirper with bellyaching.

Showering with bottled water is so expensive! When will the city fix its water problems?

So when you do see something that looks like trouble, you have to stop what you’re doing and see if this is a real problem or just more random noise. And the “noise” I’m talking about is a literal thing because…

6. Chirper is incredibly distracting.

When a new message pops up from one of your thousands of subjects, the interface beeps Every. Single. Time. The Chirper window opens to show the message. And the window is given prime interface real estate: Right at the top, in the center.

And then you have to dismiss the message, which isn’t very fun because…

7. The Chirper interface is horrendous.

The ‘X’ to dismiss a message is tiny. And it moves around, depending on the length of the previous message, so if there’s ten items in the queue you can’t remove them all by quickly clicking ten times in the same spot. You’ve got to play whack-a-mole with this dancing button.

And you’re going to be hitting that button a lot, because…

8. The Chirper messages are relentlessly frequent.

Check traffic. Make sure the water is still good. Have a look at the power plant situation. Delete a dozen unread Chirpy messages. Repeat.
Check traffic. Make sure the water is still good. Have a look at the power plant situation. Delete a dozen unread Chirpy messages. Repeat.

Imagine playing a game on Steam or Xbox Live and you’re getting a couple of messages every minute. That’s what it’s like. It’s this constant beeping popup. Most of them are not disaster notices. Most of them are just pestering distractions. You’re trying to play this videogame, and it will not leave you alone for 60 uninterrupted seconds to concentrate on a particular problem.

But now you’re thinking that means there’s a lot of flavor text for you to read? Not so much, because…

9. The Chirper messages are mercilessly repetitive.

Oh hey. The lost wallet message again. It’s been almost three minutes since the last time I saw that one.
Oh hey. The lost wallet message again. It’s been almost three minutes since the last time I saw that one.

Within the first fifteen minutes of the game, you’ll have seen 85% of what Chirper has to offer. For the rest of the game you’ll just see that same crap, again, and again, and again. Ten years after you enact a policy, they will still be commenting on it. (The same comment.)

So you can’t take it anymore. You’ve had enough of this pestering. It’s time to turn Chirper off. So you open up the options to discover that…

10. The Chirper messages can’t be turned off.

Without using mods, you can’t get rid of Chirpy. The best you can do is have it NOT automatically open up the Chirper window when a new message appears. It’ll still beep at you, and you’ll still have this stupid window taking the top-center of your screen. Yes, there is a mod to disable Chirpy. Note that using mods disables achievements, which kind of adds injury to insult.

(Note! Between the time I wrote this and the time I posted it, Colossal Order released a patch that let you turn down the volume on the Chirper messages. The messages still pile up at the top of the screen so it’s not quite the same as disabling it totally, but it makes it possible to ignore the little bastard and just play your dang videogame.)

I love this game. I really think it’s the best city builder ever made. The engine is amazing, the level of detail is stunning, and the mechanics are engrossing. If you’ve ever enjoyed a city builder, then get this game.

But Chirpy is a failure and works against the game at every turn. It’s outrageous that there isn’t a built-in way to turn it off and unthinkable that this is how you’re supposed to find out about problems in your city. #BadFeature #Death2Chirpy #Mods4Ever

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Footnotes:

[1] The devs refer to players as “Chirpies”.

[2] You can get your revenge if you put the sewer outflow upstream from your water supply and murder the whole place with cholera. But that feels less like a natural disaster and more like straight-up biological warfare.

[3] Or something like that. I can’t remember the actual order.


2020202015There are now 95 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the Archives:

  1. dutyly says:

    Haha. Wow. This is the first time that I’ve seen Shamus unload onto something with his unbridled rage and I have to say that I love it.
    Also, first… time posting here, hello everyone.

  2. Ilseroth says:

    See when I heard you say that you modded out “Chirper” I hadn’t seen or played the game but I had played other games of it’s ilk so got what you were talking about…

    But one of the streamers a frequent doesn’t play city builders or any strategy games, like ever; but a viewer gifted him Cities: Skylines and he played it on stream. As is his first city builder he was having a good time, but the Chirper messages started happening.

    It didn’t prevent him from enjoying the game, but nearly all his frustrations started happening because of the Chirper. He built a new residential district, people complained about lack of water (despite having water) and since he was new, he started messing with the pipes that were already fine. And this kept happening, the game was telling him something was wrong so he kept trying to fix it; even though it was actually fine.

    It eventually got to the point that when one person complained about a landfill nearby his house, the streamer was so annoyed he just bulldozed the guys house.

    So yeah, Chirper’s constant flow of frequently wrong information was really the only weakpoint from what I have seen; but my if it isn’t an annoying one.

  3. Yerushalmi says:

    I mean, if we’re looking for realism then I’ll point out how realistic it is to have to fight with the city council for six months and get three dozen permits just to form a committee so you can launch a study to investigate getting a quote from a contractor so you can propose a change in the budget to re-configure a dangerous intersection. That’s realistic, but I don’t want to play the videogame version of that.

    I would absolutely play “Cities 2: Budget Allocation Manager”.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Having actually worked in city government -it isn’t that bad. Usually the problem is that, absent some contesting interest group, the zoning board just rubber-stamps everything if the paperwork is in order. Internally, the headache was coordinating all the necessary offices. Finance, planning and zoning, inspections, and state health all had to sign off on the projects, not as vetoes but just that the proper inspections had been done and the proper taxes paid. Sometimes, though, they weren’t all in agreement on what a project was. So we had fights when inspections said a building was blighted and needed to be torn down, but P&Z said the building was historic and needed to be refurbished.

      If the departments couldn’t work it out, it would go to the council for a vote -max time: 6 weeks, but only if you have the problem come up between Wednesday and Monday of the week before the week of the next council meeting (because agendas have to be published 2 weeks in advance).

      Regarding twitter -while in the social media world you might get a mix of views, contact via social media to local governments is almost entirely negative. No one calls the mayor because they like what he’s doing, or comes by city hall to say how much they appreciate the local government. At best, they come because they have business to attend to -and if everything goes well, they’ll leave with “good day.” If things go poorly -well, the rule is never open anything sent to you personally at city hall. The mayor once did that and had ten gallons of sewage spill over his desk.

      So we tended to ignore twitter, facebook, and blog comments. We had a public information officer who had the job of sorting them just in case something important came up -and those occasions when something did blow up, she would do her thing. Generally, though, if it was important, the expectation was that it would be brought up at a council meeting.

      Not that this helps Shamus, as I imagine Skylines doesn’t have council meetings.

      • Kamica says:

        Youre making me go find something the local government is doing right, and go up to them and tell them they did that right =P.

      • Purple Library Guy says:

        No, but it could; you’d have this thing where meetings would happen and the current problems would be on the agenda and maybe different council members would have different slants, there’d be like the gung-ho-for-industry council member and the moar-suburbia council member and the green councilmember. And then you’d make a decision and vote a particular way and your majority of yes-men councillors would all go “Absolutely, Mr. Fishbane!” and override the councillors with those pesky opinions and you could sneer at them for trying to stand in your way.
        Or some kind of advisors system where department heads yack at you about what the current problems are, if you invoke them.

    • MrGuy says:

      It’s a sequel to Papers, Please.

  4. Bropocalypse says:

    I think there should be a mod that disables the pointless complaints and simply leaves you with the ACTUALLY IMPORTANT messages. The ones about electricity and water, for example.

    • Smejki says:

      There’s no need for this either because you have these blinking icons visible from ISS. How often do you zoom out to view the whole city? I do it quite often and always handle all the few existing problems. I ignored Chirpy from the very start (and killed it later) and I never got into trouble by missing an alert. The only stuff that sometimes goes unnoticed for a longer time period is a burned down structure awaiting buldozing. And there’s a mod to automatize even that as well (I don’t use it).

      • Kamica says:

        I ignore it as well, occassionally I glance over what it says to see if it is an important message, I never delete any of the messages, it closes itself after a little while.

        Actually, a lot of things people complain about solve themselves largely I noticed by just being lazy =P.

        Chirper, yes, it opens up, makes a sound, and gives you a repetative message, but you should be able to recognise the messages after a while because they are so repetitive, so you dont need to check out their actual words, just their implication. then you can continue, because it closes itself.

        Then there is the whole demolition thing. Really, an abandoned (or burnt out building) will be treated much like an empty plot: If someone wants to build something there, they will tear it down for you, and build something there. (As far as I am aware). It might take a while, and people might not appreciate the look of it, but I didnt have a problem with it.

        The main thing I personally thought was annoying, was that you cant upgrade two way-roads into one-way roads and vice-versa. Having to demolish a road, and then re-build it is expensive and risky (as it might screw up your entire layout) and god forbid, you have to do it to a Curved Road.

        One other thing that bothers me is that some things lack a bit of clarity. Sometimes its hard to intuit what affects what, or what requires what.

        I did take great pleasure in using the liquid engine they use. Once I discovered that a dam actually blocks the water, I just started screwing around with dams, and now I have a dam with a shopping street in the dry river-bed in front of it (the dam doesnt generate any power though…). Then I saved the game, and removed the dam, put the speed at full, and watched as the entire street got flooded in slow motion (the liquid engine runs very slow, but I dont mind, its probably their solution to the high performance costs of liquid engines)

        • Smejki says:

          Abandoned structures get rebuilt once the requirements are fullfilled (customers, education level etc.) but I think I’ve never seen a burned structure torn down and rebuilt by itself.

          I just realized there’s one thing you can’t easily devise from the analytic tools – overcrowded schools (and maybe hospitals but I’ve never got to the point of having more than 20% hospital capacity used). All you get is their coverage, marked position and summarized (!) capacity usage. If you have just one school with insuficient capacity for the cover residential areas you get no alert nor is there any other indication (I believe there is no chirp about it either). The only thing you can do is click on every school and check usage of each.

          • rofltehcat says:

            There is a mod that automatically bulldozes burnt down and abandoned buildings (can be toggled independently of each other).

            Schools are behaving strangely anyways. For example, elementary schools only have a range that is easily within walking distance. But its influence display only expands in one direction on one-way streets. I wonder if the children from down the road still walk to the school… I mean, who drives their kid to school if the school is 500 m away?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              500 meters?Thats like half a kilometer or something!No one is insane to walk that astronomical distance.

              • rofltehcat says:

                In general the game is using a very America-like system. In European city centers a lot of people mainly walk or use a bike. There is still a lot of car traffic on the ring roads and the outer districts but a lot of people don’t even own a car (Cities: Skylines citizens can store their cars in their pockets for short distances).

                I just downloaded a mod that implements special roads that can only be used by emergency/service vehicles and pedestrians and allow buildings to be placed next to them. My next city will look a lot less American.

                Clarification: I don’t mean “Americans don’t walk anywhere”, I mean that the game focuses a lot on road traffic, which ultimately fits the design of American Suburbia while badly portraying the traffic in high density city centers.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Thats because many european cities are old,and therefore have a bunch of narrow streets not suitable for driving,let alone parking.There are those that have been rebuilt in a more modern fashion,due to being almost completely destroyed in wwii,but many remain old and crowded.

                • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                  No, no, you were right. Developer heuristic: the longest an American will willingly walk –600 feet. 1500 feet if there are interesting window displays. Otherwise, they will drive.

              • Felblood says:

                Well, it is supposed to be a contemporary setting.

        • Majromax says:

          > The main thing I personally thought was annoying, was that you cant upgrade two way-roads into one-way roads and vice-versa. Having to demolish a road, and then re-build it is expensive and risky (as it might screw up your entire layout) and god forbid, you have to do it to a Curved Road.

          This was fixed in the recent bugfix patch. Two-way and one-way roads can now be upgraded into each other, and a right-click with the road tool active switches the direction of a segment of one-way road.

        • Trainzack says:

          This post seems vaguely similar to this, so I’ll just put this here. One of the things that annoys me most is that houses have to be connected to sewers. Septic tanks are a thing.

          Also, it’s annoying when sometimes the game tries to snap a new road onto the grid, and I don’t want this happening, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to toggle that.

          • Kamica says:

            When you have the road-building tool selected, there are the four little icons that allow you to make straight, curved, free-form roads or upgrade existing roads to the left of the main road-type selection menu (theyre small, and attached to the tool-bar). A bit further left from there, there is a similarly sized icon with a square on it. This tool toggles snapping to grid. It will still snap to other roads though.

  5. Smejki says:

    “The engine is amazing”
    It’s Unity ;-) Which only makes me wonder how the hell can this game run so well with so much stuff to calculate while rather primitive Wasteland 2 performs so poorly in some areas.

    And yes, I also had to kill that bird.
    There’s also one more thing that makes Chirpy even less useful than it actually is (not so much). The texts are all one color mixing everything into one pile of twittery trash symbols. You see, on Twitter you have the hashtags standing out because they have different color from the rest of the text. The best thing about hashtags, which is to look at global feed on specific topic, is non-existent in this game (there would be a feed of dozens of identical tweets chirps in this game anyway so thank God for not being there). So the only remaining useful aspect is that the same hashtag marks tweets chirps of people pushing for the common cause. As messages repeat you are not interested in reading them, you are interested in info they carry. And since hashtags are hard to recognize in split second the alerts are rendered useless and annoying. This principle even worked in the old SC4. You got a long message you got used to not read but since it’s the one with this road link you know it’s about heavy traffic on a specific place. So you click it et voilá you’re looking at the problematic intersection. Chirpy has none of that. It doesn’t give you useful info quickly nor does it show where the problem is. It just bleeps, and stares at you like a trollboss of the internet comments sections.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      Optimizations. Unity provides a rendering engine and a ton of extremely useful tools, but you still have to program the game logic yourself.

      • Kamica says:

        Yea, I was quite surprised when I realised it was made with Unity (I realised because of the familiar folder/file structure of the game directory =P).

        I must say: Congrats to the devs! They did very well.

      • rofltehcat says:

        It is really a sign that Unity isn’t a bad engine. Many devs simply don’t seem to use it to its capacity. Of course many indie devs don’t have the resources to do a lot of stuff with it but most really seem to go with the minimum effort possible.

        I’m a bit grumpy because some of the games don’t even seem to have proper resolution and windowed mode options :(

  6. Sam Atkins says:

    The weird thing about using mods disabling achievements, is that there’s a mod that re-enables the achievements: Mod Achievement Enabler. I’m not sure why they don’t just have achievements always enabled given that it’s a singleplayer game, but whatever.

    • rofltehcat says:

      Probably to prevent people from “cheating” to get achievements. Does anyone actually care about achievements?

      • Awetugiw says:

        I used to think that the ability to “cheat” achievements in single player games doesn’t matter. I have partially changed my mind though, because of Europa Universalis IV.

        In single player EUIV, like most single player games*, the achievements serve mainly as a way to inform players of interesting challenges. Where EUIV differs from most other games is that some of the achievements are so hard that they are pretty much impossible to complete without using, essentially, exploits. This has resulted in a kind of game-within-a-game where players try to find exploits that allow them to complete the hard achievements. (As an example of the kind of strategies involved: there are several effects in the game that reduce the maintenance cost of your army. Up until recently, it was possible to get enough of these modifiers to reduce your army upkeep by 103%. Result: instead of having to pay money to your troops (thus limiting the total amount of soldiers you can have), you actually get paid by your troops.)

        But this leads to a problem. Once the players have been encouraged to bend the rules, it is very hard to communicate to them how far they are supposed to bend them. If you just allow anything (like mods), then every achievement becomes trivial. So you have to tell the players which rules they are allowed to bend/break and which rules they should obey.

        EUIV (like other Paradox games) does this by using an “ironman” game mode. Playing in ironman mode is necessary in order to get achievements, and it blocks the use of mods, console commands, savescumming and country switching. As such, completing the hard achievements in EUIV is challenging, as intended.

        Returning to Cities: Skylines, I don’t know whether the achievements there are proper challenges. But I can definitely see why, if you want to use achievements in a single player game, you would lock them away in some kind of restricted game mode.

        *More accurately: like most single player games that use achievements properly. There are a lot of games where achievements serve no purpose at all.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I mean, if we’re looking for realism then I’ll point out how realistic it is to have to fight with the city council for six months and get three dozen permits just to form a committee so you can launch a study to investigate getting a quote from a contractor so you can propose a change in the budget to re-configure a dangerous intersection.

    And then you gain an ignobel award for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.

  8. Jexter says:

    And Shamus has linked to Slate Star Codex. The incestuous relationship between all the blogs I read is finally complete.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    These messages have to be all stored somewhere.So wouldnt it be easy for the developer to simply delete all the flavor ones,and leave in only the disaster messages in play?

  10. Kyte says:

    For the record I’m pretty sure they only started using “Chirpies” (and adding the Chirper bird to the loading screen) after people complained of the Chirper while watching streams. It was actually kind of funny.

    I believe that’s also when they added an interface to kill the Chirper entirely via mod.

    Incidentally, there’s also a mod to enable achievements while using mods.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    When a new house is built, there’s a couple of seconds between the time the house is done and the moment the power and water kick in. And during that brief second, the inhabitant will often hit Chirper with bellyaching.

    Seeing how few seconds is a day or so in the game,thats exactly like real life.

  12. Zak McKracken says:

    ” Note that using mods disables achievements”

    am I the only one who thought that this seems a good way to kill two birds with one stone?

    Achievements. Me hates them. Distract from the game I want to play, try to make me go out of my way to some silly thing for the benefit of having others know that I did that silly thing ( which everyone else also did, for the same effing reason) …

  13. General Karthos says:

    I hate chirpy too, but the game barely runs on my computer as is. Would a mod removing chirpy slow the game down too much? (And by too much I mean “at all”? Because if it slows down the game even a little bit, we’re skirting “unplayable” territory.)

    Anybody know?

  14. KMJX says:

    I’m sorry (not really), but after reading your Chirper rant I realized something:

    Chirper looks a lot like the devs making fun of that one Twitter hashtag that shall not be named.

    Just to clarify, I’m making this comment in good fun.
    Take three steps back, and look at it all from a distance, and if you consider all parts of the argument you’ll see how similar Shamus’ rant is to what an outsider would rant about when browsing the tag.

    Have a nice and fun day :’p

  15. The Rocketeer says:

    “Jackasss”

    Shame Shameback’s Jaackasssss Game

    That’s all. I’ve got nothing else.

  16. ehlijen says:

    This reminds me of ‘R2 indicates a manufacturing message has been received.”

    My housemate still hasn’t forgiven me for playing Star Wars Rebellion without headphones for a few hours. (That was that game’s equivalent of the chirper beep.)

    • Bubble181 says:

      …Didn’t everybody just turn off the voice messages? I left the beeps on, because you could tell by the type of beep what sort of message it was, but the voice was simply useless at higher speeds – there’d be far too many messages to play them all, and he always chose the wrong ones to say.

  17. kdansky says:

    It’s 2015, and developers have still not realized that you absolutely must not repeat the same phrase multiple times, because human brains are astonishingly good at catching repetition. We’ve had Arrow To The Knee jokes for years now, but still nobody goes “we should make it so that any message cannot be displayed more than once every real life week” or some other simple logic like that. It’s infuriating.

    Except for Valve. TF2 and Left 4 Dead don’t do this. They have tons of voice acted lines, and they are very careful not to repeat them too often, even if you play those games for a hundred hours. And then you boot up Skyrim, walk past two guards, and they tell the exact same ArrowKnee story, even talking over each other.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      Speaking of “arrow to the knee,” I read somewhere that it’s actually old, old slang for marriage. In that context it’s less weird, but still a pretty arcane thing for a person to say.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      “I’ve fought mudcrabs that almost make you wish for an arrow to the knee!”

      It’s like every Bethesda (and Bethesda/Obsidian) game has this one endlessly repeated line that everybody remembers and quickly gets sick of. You’d think they’d have learned by now.

    • Trainzack says:

      The Cities Skylines devs could mitigate this by making chips composites of smaller sentences/sentence fragments chosen randomly, or semi-randomly, based on, say, the age, gender, personality, wealth, and education of the person.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE!

      However,its not pure repetition of the sound that is annoying,its the unbroken repetition of a single sound.For example,I find *craft repetitive sounds to be less annoying than in other games because you get so may different ones by selecting different units(each unit has 2 or 3 basic sounds that they repeat when selected and when ordered).It still can get annoying,but far slower than ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE repeated ad nauseam.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Thi4f had not just one liners but entire dialogues that retriggered when you approached given spot/NPCs, sometimes overlapping over themselves if you moved in and out of the trigger zone. Only barely justified in that some of these conversations carried information about unique loot items that could otherwise be missed, still some kind of log would solve the problem just as well.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Ugh,thiaf is insufferable.The only game where I had to mute the sound because of how obnoxious the overlapping dialogue became(and then I didnt even finish the game after enduring that auditory torture).

  18. Bitterpark says:

    Chirper is just a symptom of the interface being crap.

    It’s fine for building stuff, but getting actual city info is just shitawful:
    1) There are no citywide graphs like there were in Sim City 4, you just have to enable the colored overlay and scroll around the whole town yourself, or zoom all the way out until you can’t even make out individual streets.
    2) City service budgets are adjusted in a separate screen from their actual usage metrics, so you have to go back and forth to tune it to your town’s current needs
    3) The fact that most overlays are tied to building menus is just poor design. Want to see the normal street view and road layout while placing a new Metro station, instead of the underground tunnel view? Too bad you can’t: as long as you have the station selected it will show the underground view. And if you just want to see the underground view, you have to go to the build menu and select the station. Not to mention crazy ideas like enabling the Traffic overlay while you put down some new service, which is doubly impossible.
    4) All the meters from Sim City 4 are GONE. Chirper may tell you you’re having issues with lack of water, but it won’t indicate if it’s just one house on the outskirts or an entire district you forgot to hook up.
    5) I need to find an actual bus going around town and click on it to see how many people are using the bus line its on? Seriously??

    It’s probably just inexperience or lack of time though, but it really stands out in an otherwise stellar game. I hope they patch in a proper user interface soon.

  19. Dt3r says:

    If you want to see a better approach to handling a huge volume of notifications you should look at the games by Paradox. Most games have 200+ countries interacting, so the signal to noise problem could easily get out of hand. Paradox’s solution was to give the player a massive number of filters that you can set. It’s not the most elegant solution; the first time you play it takes like 15 minutes of clicking to set everything how you want it. After that it works great though.

    If you ask Josh I’m sure he would be more than happy to talk about how Crusader Kings 2 handles it. :P

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes,everyone send a mail to ask the diecast how notifications in ck2 work,so that Josh can tell us.

    • Veylon says:

      CK2 not only lets you filter the messages on or off, but give them levels of priority. So that some will pause the game and put a pop-up in the middle of the screen and others will quietly appear in their folder (yes, the messages are categorized by type as well) and still others can go in the general text feed or simply never show up at all.

      There are also banners that drop down whenever things are “wrong” and need fixing (these can be disabled temporarily or permanently as well). If Skylines were using them, they might drop when utilities are disconnected or a particular building was needed. A little road icon would come down if roads were screwed up, be available to be clicked upon to show where, and roll away once the problems were resolved.

      I’m shocked that a studio that’s working for Paradox anyway in a game that also has dozens of messages that need organizing didn’t copy the design.

  20. MrGuy says:

    I wonder if the solution to chirpy would be to make it work more like the way actual large institutions look at social media feeds – in the aggregate, not one at a time.

    I could see this being more useful as a feature if you could just look at aggregate mentions of hashtags or certain city departments. I don’t need to see ever chirp about water – show me how many people chirped about it recently. Also, show me what’s trending – what hashtags are suddenly getting more mentions than they used to? If I think there’s a problem, let me link into the detail of the individual chirps (so I can get more info). Now I actually have some level of radar into existing and emerging problems, and which are likely the most concern.

    If you really, really want me not to miss out on all your clever stuff, put a crawl of of the recent chirps in the lower right corner of the screen. Just give me the top 10 hashtags and the 5 recently trending hashtags right above it so I can actually see what’s useful.

  21. StashAugustine says:

    It’s like they looked at the newspapers in Victoria II and said “Yes, but more annoying and less useful.”

  22. Galad says:

    Oh WOW. I heard about the Chirpy thing and thought “heh, small issue, even if persistent and annoying, if that’s the game’s biggest flaw then it’s a pretty damn good game overall”.

    But then you write this “Yes, there is a mod to disable Chirpy. Note that using mods disables achievements, which kind of adds injury to insult.” – and that’s a dealbreaker for me, or at least it would’ve been if I were considering to buy this game (not my cup of tea).

  23. Irridium says:

    Huh, you’d think they would at least have a bunch of chirps so it wouldn’t repeat the same things over and over. I mean, that’d happen no matter what I guess, but I do wonder if they’ll add more in updates.

    Also, don’t really have a good segue so I’ll just link to this which follows the tail of a city with only one family living in it. It’s good stuff.

  24. Taluien says:

    Well, there is the option to mute Chirpy in the Volume controls and keeping it from opening up in the Misc tab, so you can get a grasp on it when you want the bad news.

  25. shiroax says:

    You should warn when linking something ginormous. It’s an hour later now and I haven’t read your post. I wonder how many pages that would be if not for scrolling.

  26. Kamica says:

    On a non-chirper or rant related topic, but still Cities:Skylines related.

    This game made me realise I should NOT be put in charge of any traffic control or road-building… My city has the most aweful roads Ive ever seen, they make Auckland (Biggest city in New Zealand, famous locally for horrible roads, especially highways leading into it) look like a straight road with no branching… But it works… barely… Luckily the people in this game make no mistakes in where they have to go… that would end catastrophically…

    On another note: Ship-captains cant steer… Just saying… Had some land-ships though, thats a plus I guess =).

  27. Nick Powell says:

    Also, if a chirp happens to be open when you press Esc to close a menu, it closes the chirp instead and leaves the menu open.

  28. SpaceSjut says:

    I’m not sure if this was mentioned already (sorry if it was), but there’s a mod on steam to enable achievements while playing a modded game: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=407055819

    Works for me.

  29. Arkady says:

    > I mean, if we’re looking for realism then I’ll point out how realistic it is to have
    > to fight with the city council for six months and get three dozen permits just to form > a committee so you can launch a study to investigate getting a quote from a
    > contractor so you can propose a change in the budget to re-configure a dangerous > intersection. That’s realistic, but I don’t want to play the videogame version of that.

    I can’t help but think you might actually enjoy a game based around that.

  30. Grin Of Madness says:

    With regards to your “City Council Simulator” idea that you feel would be too boring, I thought the same thing of Court Room Drama as a video game but the Phoenix Wright series has proved me wrong on that with its popularity. Perhaps it could be designed in a “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” way where the arguments with the council are done a la “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out”, the filling out the paper work for the permits could be “Typing of the Dead” (or perhaps a Doom style FPS where you blow up the requisite forms with shotguns and plasma cannons), and the driving to the Contractor to get the quote could be done in a “Nitronic Rush” fashion.

    I suppose if that’s too much it could just be a mod in “Goat Simulator” where you can take out your frustrations by headbutting all the council members.

  31. SlothfulCobra says:

    I feel like I’d like a city game with some realism. Instead of just being a playground sandbox to carve into your own masterpiece, you could have some kind of crunchy mechanics outside of the control of the mayor/god/city planner. Maybe have a separate mayor who you have to satisfy?

    • boota says:

      While i think a realistic urban planning game would be very difficult to enjoy, it sure would be interesting. And frustrating.

      it would encompass stuff like:

      * Never knowing how much anything in the game would cost to build (often twice or maybe even as much as ten times higher than advertised), when it would be done, or what the quality of the end result will be. Also not knowing how much the maintenance would be when the building is done.

      * years and years of legal procedures before building the simplest things could start

      * having to be aware of who compiled the data that you base your decisions off, because even if you compiled it yourself it was created by someone with an agenda.

      * having to choose between several equally bad options for a space.

  32. RCN says:

    I know Chirpy is annoying and all that, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to choose one or the other at milestones. The game very much gives you every incentive to take loans and build what you need as soon as possible, paying them back while racking up the benefits of all your new buildings.

    I was impressed to find the game has the cloverleaf intersection, though only a gigantic one that I can’t place in the middle of my city very well, it takes too much real state. Though I’m pretty sure the tools are robust enough I could make my own smaller cloverleaf like the ones I have in my city with the road-building tools.

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