Skylines of the Future

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jun 2, 2020

Filed under: Column 76 comments

Like I said in my last article about this game, the assumption seems to be that the team at Colossal Order is working on a sequel. They haven’t announced the game yet but they’re putting out less content these days, so it makes sense that the team is either making a sequel or they’re all playing Doom: Eternal.  

Assuming they are working on a sequel, it means that the game is still in the early stages of development. So now is a good time to offer some suggestions and constructive criticism to the developers. 

Dear devs: You folks made an amazing game. According to Wikipedia, you had just 9 people on the team when you made Cities: Skylines. Making a full-scale city simulation with a team that small is a tall order. But making the BEST city simulation and beating the behemoth of EA Maxis isn’t just a tall order, it’s a…

oh. Right. I get it now. 

What I’m getting at here is that I got really into this amazing game you made. It killed my productivity over the past couple of months and I basically stopped talking to people. This was hard on my family and kinda unfair to my Patrons. But look: I’m willing to forgive you for all of that. All you have to do is implement all of my ideas from this video, and we’ll call it even. Cool? Cool.


Link (YouTube)

So first, I should make it clear that I’m not going to pad this list out with obvious stuff that would fall under the broad category of “more content”. This includes stuff like bigger maps, higher populations, more building styles, more vehicle types, and so on. I’m sure the developers want all this stuff too. This stuff is limited by budget and system specs, not by creativity. Like, if Skylines 2 has the same map size limitations as the first game, it won’t be because it never occurred to anyone at Colossal Order to make bigger maps. Instead it probably means there were performance concerns with their targeted platforms.

No, my suggestions are going to mostly focus on gameplay adjustments and balance issues. Broadly speaking, I’m looking for things that:

  1. Allow the player to make interesting decisions as they design their city and…
  2. …make for a better simulation that more accurately reflects the sort of challenges city-planners face. And finally…
  3. Make the city look more realistic or interesting in terms of behavior and layout.

Not every feature needs to check all of these boxes, but these are, broadly speaking, good things to strive for.

So, the number one thing I’d like to see added to the game is… 

1. Get Rid of Deathcare

Okay, I know it sounds weird that the first feature I want is the removal of a feature, but hear me out.

Currently, the game requires you to deal with dead bodies. Every once in a while a citizen will die, and they’ll need to be taken to either a graveyard or a crematorium. There are several problems with this system. One is the so-called “death-wave” that passes over your city every few hours. For whatever reason, everyone who moves into your city is about the same age. They’re always uneducated young adults with the same projected lifespan. So what happens is the player will zone a huge block of new residential, a bunch of people will all move in at the same time, and then a few in-game years later they all drop dead at the same time. This abrupt mass death overwhelms your deathcare services, resulting in people abandoning their homes because they’re tired of waiting for the city to come and haul granny’s carcass away. 

This problem is so perplexing and frustrating for players that the developers even uploaded a tutorial explaining how it works and how to avoid it. And the solution boils down to “have people move in more slowly”. 

This is a ridiculous system. It makes for a nonsensical simulation. It makes your city look ridiculous by forcing you to cover the city in deathcare facilities to the point where crematoriums are more common than Starbucks. And worst of all, it doesn’t make for interesting gameplay for the player. 

In the real world, city planners aren’t generally involved in corpse disposal. This sort of business generally falls to religious institutions and commercial enterprises. The game doesn’t really have any religion in its simulation. That’s fine, since religion is a touchy subject. If you include a place of worship for some religions and exclude others then people will take offense and that’s no fun. So it’s probably best to leave the spiritual buildings to modders. But if we’re not going to have religious or ceremonial buildings, then it feels really weird to simulate deathcare. It would be like having tons of schools in a gameworld that contains no children. 

I never found myself playing Sim City or Cities XL and thought to myself, “This would be so much more immersive if I had to create a hole for dead bodies.” Even if this system made sense, it adds nothing to the game. 

So rather than simulating deathcare, how about we simulate something that city planners DO need to worry about? How about we simulate…

2. Parking!

Parking is a serious, ongoing problem in every major city. The need for parking impacts the layout of cities, the flow of traffic, the formulation of laws, and the behavior of citizens. Parking is a far-reaching system that’s inextricably bound to traffic management. It struck me as really odd that Cities: Skylines had such a detailed traffic simulation, but then the developers simulated body disposal and NOT parking.

Modders have done what they could to remedy this. If you’re on the PC, you can download mods that will add parking areas to the game and citizens will even use them. The problem is that modders couldn’t really add a whole new system to the game, so parking zones were added under the “parks and recreation” category. The result is that citizens will view your giant expanse of ugly parking lots as entertainment and neighborhood beautification. Tourists will fly to your city and spend the day relaxing with the family at the tiny parking lot beside your power plant. 

Here’s what I propose for the sequel:

Commercial spaces will demand access to parking. Each commercial building will check for available parking within a small radius. If there’s not enough parking, then the place will be unable to function properly, similar to how places can malfunction if suffering from a lack of goods, workers, or customers. Instead of flooding the menu with parking lots of every possible size, just give the player the freedom to zone an area as parking and have the game fill it in for them. This will allow the player to fill in those little gaps and corners with parking, just like we see in the real world.

The downside of parking would be that it takes up a bunch of space but not bring in much revenue for the city. Per square meter, buildings will be more profitable than lots. The trick is that commercial buildings will demand less parking if they have good access to public transport. So now the player has a choice. They can invest in good public transport and enjoy densely packed buildings like in Tokyo, or they can ignore public transport and instead surrender large chunks of their city to parking like in the United States. The look of the city will emerge based on how focused they are on public transport. 

The next thing I’d like to see is a fix for:

3. Farming Traffic


No joke. This is what traffic looks like around farmland in Cities: Skylines

Please Colossal Order. Please stop this madness. 

In Cities Skylines, farms count as industrial areas, and industrial areas generate huge amounts of traffic. So instead of farms being dirt roads with the occasional tractor, they generate downtown Los Angeles levels of traffic. This means that your farms need incredibly robust systems for traffic mitigation. 

I guess the developers realized that their traffic simulation was really good, and so they tried to make everything tie into it. But this? This is crazy-pants ridiculous nonsense. It looks absurd, it makes no sense, and it means farming areas can’t really look like farming areas. 

What’s worse, is that they did an overhaul to how farms work back in 2018 with the Industries DLC, and they did nothing to fix this. If anything, it might even be a little worse. 

As a rough estimate, I’d say the game is creating about a hundred times more traffic than it should. It also creates an implausibly huge demand for jobs. Like, this game isn’t set in the medieval ages. Here in the modern world a single small-business farm can easily cover hundreds of acres, but Skylines acts like a small four-acre hobby farm is a factory that needs dozens of people. 

What I suggest is that instead of generating massive amounts of traffic and jobs, farming should instead put an enormous drain on the city’s water system. I realize that the traffic simulation in this game is really good, but that’s no reason to create orders of magnitude more traffic than makes sense. It’s okay. Let farms be farms.

The next thing I’d like to see change is… 

4. A Fix for Water and Electricity Delivery

In the game, you have to put water mains under your city for the citizens to tap into. So what happens is players just blanket the city with water pipes. The player doesn’t even need to take topography into account. Running pipes across an empty plain costs the same as running pipes up a mountain and under a lake. Water will even flow uphill. I’m not suggesting we should have the game simulate all the financial and engineering concerns of moving water through a city. I’m saying that since there aren’t any decisions to make and no room for optimizations, then there’s nothing to make this mechanic interesting for the player. You just draw evenly spaced lines all over your map. That’s not gameplay, that’s busywork.

This is very tedious, it makes no sense, and it looks absurd. In the real world, we put our water mains under our streets to carry water and utility poles overhead to carry electricity. We can make the game more realistic and less tedious by simply having the streets carry water and power, since that’s how things work in the real world.

The exception would be highways, which don’t have that sort of infrastructure. Players would need to run pipes and powerlines between cities, but they wouldn’t need to personally connect every single neighborhood to the grid. This will be more fun for the player, and it will let them focus on the interesting decisions the game has for them.

And while we’re talking about infrastructure, let’s talk about the problem of…

5. Effortless Self-Sufficiency 

So you start a new city. You drop in a water pump. Then you add a sewage outflow pipe that dumps raw sewage into the river or ocean. 

As an aside, can we get rid of this:

Casually dumping raw sewage into a major water source like it's no big deal.
Casually dumping raw sewage into a major water source like it's no big deal.

This game is set in the civilized world and dumping raw sewage into bodies of water isn’t a thing anymore. It would be really great if I didn’t need to commit a literal ecological crime every time I start a new city. Just give the player access to sewage treatment from the start. It’s not like sewage treatment is some mystical future technology that only big cities can afford.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh right. You start a city and add water inflow and outflow. Then you add a power plant. Soon after that you add a landfill. The player spends a lot of time at the start of the game building infrastructure. So what we have here is a tiny village that’s entirely self-sufficient. They have their own water system and power plant. That’s not how city growth works. Worse, this kind of clogs the start of the game for new players, since they have to read all these tutorials and build all of this infrastructure before they can even unpause the game for the first time.

Here is what I propose: At the start of the game, there are already power lines and water mains on the map that connect to neighboring cities. Just like the player connects to the existing road network, they can plug their city into these external utilities. The player will then automatically buy power and water from other cities, and pay to export their trash. As the game goes on, the player can eventually save up enough to build their own infrastructure. It’s cheaper to make your own power than to buy it from neighbors, so the player has an incentive to pursue independence. Self-sufficiency would be something you need to work towards over time, rather than having it handed to your tiny town at the start of the game. 

And the final suggestion I have for Cities Skylines 2 is this:

6. Get Rid of “Cities”

I don’t mean take cities out of the game. I mean take the word “cities” out of the title. Just call it Skylines 2. I realize this seems sort of petty and has more to do with marketing than game design, but this title reminds me of the Descent Freespace problem.

For you young people who missed it: Way back in the mid 90s, there was this shooter called Descent. I was really into it at the time. A few years later, publisher Interplay wanted to launch a new franchise called Freespace, but they were worried about using a name with no brand recognition. So they slapped the word Descent on the box, calling it Descent Colon Freespace Dash The Great War. This was annoying and awkward, since that’s a ridiculously overblown title and the games had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Ironically, Freespace went on to be the bigger name and Descent was largely forgotten for the next decade. And sure enough, when Freespace 2 came out they dropped the Descent moniker because it wasn’t going to do anything but confuse people. 

I feel like publisher Paradox has done something similar in the case of Cities: Skylines. I imagine they wanted to sort of connect this game to the developer’s previous project, which was the Cities in Motion series. So we got Cities Colon Skylines. But look: You don’t need to fight for recognition when you’re the top dog. Drop the word “city”, which is used by SimCity, Cities XL, Cities in Motion, and a bunch of other stuff. Those are all inferior games, so why associate with them? You’re the king of the genre and you’ve got the word Skylines all to yourself. That’s all yours. Embrace it.

So those are my suggestions for the sequel. But really, whatever you do, I’m sure it’ll be a success. Just don’t make it always online and we’ll be fine.

 


From The Archives:
 

76 thoughts on “Skylines of the Future

  1. Tse says:

    Regarding water delivery, there is a way to power your city by dumping sewage at the top of a mountain and generating electricity via a dam.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      That sounds gross, hilarious and…impractical. Surely the generators in the dam would get clogged? You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff people flush down the toilet.

      Also, is this system called Hydroshitlectric Power? A Poo-wer Plant? If you want to inspect it, urine for quite the surprise…

      1. Mersadeon says:

        I mean, also, you would have to spend more energy to get the poop-water up the mountain than you’d get from it flowing down…

        1. Geebs says:

          Not if you build all of the lavatories on top of the same mountain. This solution would also result in all of your citizens having amazing cardiovascular health, and therefore mitigate the deathcare problem.

          1. Asdasd says:

            A non-trivial proportion of deaths would presumably happen on the way up the mountain, so gravity could take care of transportation to the crematoria.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Either that, or people would just let the bodies rot on the roadside and get grumpy at the city planner for not doing anything.
              Then they might just stop using the toilets… X-(

    2. Agammamon says:

      I am screaming at the screen about how the energy costs of pumping the sewage up the mountain should be greater than any you can recover from the dam and what the hell is wrong with this simulation!

      1. Sven says:

        Simple: there is no simulation of the energy cost of pumping water/sewage. Pipes don’t use electricity even if they run uphill, and sewage dumps use a fixed amount of power regardless of where they are.

      2. Asdasd says:

        People could carry the sewage up the mountain. The cost of labour would be paid by the selling excess energy back to the grid. Unemployment solved at a stroke!

  2. Mephane says:

    Excellent suggestions. Regarding the part with water treatment, I would go a step further. Completely rethink how buildings unlock. Important things are gated behind reaching a certain population, at which point suddenly hospitals are invented and also suddenly people start getting sick.

    Your idea of connecting to neighbouring cities for utilities and services indicates the solution. All the services and utilities should be required for a city to function right from the start, but you always start out with at least one road connection to a neighbour, which is basically the umbilical cord of your freshly founded town. Then instead of gating access to and the need for facilities behind population limits, gate the cost for importing them. Like, at the start it should just be free, then as your population grows and thus your ability to generate income, various services and utilities will start to cost money, and always just one at a time so that you don’t cross a threshold of 1000 citizens and suddenly have to foot a massive bill out of nowhere.

    Now as for my personally biggest wish for Skylines 2 is to rework unique buildings from the ground up.

    * No longer are they unlocked after reaching a certain population and other criteria. Instead, you may be randomly approached by a company, government agency, rich sponsor etc who would like to build a facility, museum, research center, space launch site etc. on the premises of your city.

    * You can increase the likelihood (but never guarantee) of a particular building being offered by preemptively implementing infrastructure that they might need. For example, a space launch site needs a lot of flat land away from populated areas and a certain minimum amount of transportation infrastructure. So you build a highway, flatten a lot of terrain, fell some trees, and maybe your village becomes the next Cape Canaveral.

    * You do not choose the location. While you may influence it beforehand as hinted at above, when offered, you may choose between no more than 3 alternative sites, sometimes not even that. (Obviously you can choose to decline the offer altogether.)

    * You do not pay for its construction, but of course for the infrastructure. If a company wants to build a mall, they pay for the building, you pay for the roads.

    * Construction is not instantaneous, and it gives you a generous timeframe to build any necessary infrastructure that you don’t yet have in place. If you fail to fulfill the facility’s needs by opening day, you may be randomly given one extension. If you fail to meed the demand, by then, the facility will be demolished and you may or may not be sued.

    * Likewise, if you fail to meet infrastructure demands once the thing is up and running, you are given a certain amount of leeway for temporary downtime until fines or lawsuits start to happen or, in extreme cases, the company/agency/whatever closes shop, demolishes the thing and leaves the city for good.

    Basically, these things should be very meaningful when they happen, and effectively drive the story of your city, not just add a building to your menu to plop down at your convenience for some extra jobs or tax income.

    1. Joshua says:

      Interesting ideas.

    2. King Marth says:

      I’m just thinking of the monuments in historical city-building games like Pharaoh, Zeus, and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom. These were story objectives, demanding large amounts of resources and labour for buildings that didn’t have a direct impact on your city other than serving as a win state (aside from the temples in Zeus inviting gods to assist you, but the Pyramids or Great Wall of China aren’t built with short-term gain in mind). Scenario play helps these along, but I could see randomly-introduced events working as a procedural scenario generator, particularly with this alternate approach – the onus isn’t on building the structure but on maintaining it and reaping the benefits of keeping it around.

      If you’re doing this, I would definitely prefer some way to guarantee a specific type of building, if only on some sort of challenge map. Random is fine for sandbox play but this would give some clear objectives. (I don’t play Skylines though, so I may be misjudging what the audience likes.)

    3. Alecw says:

      This was exactly how military bases were handled in Simcity 2000. Like, exactly.
      Eg your city had large flat terrain and good infrastructure, there was a chance you would be made an offer to put an airforce base there. If you had deep waterways, maybe a naval base would make an offer.

      You didn’t control or build it but you provided the infrastructure. In return you would get jobs and sometimes resources during disasters.

      1. Tuck says:

        And, if you had an airforce base in your city and imported that city into SimCopter, you could go steal an Apache and fly around in it!

        1. Mr. Wolf says:

          And hunt down that UFO!

      2. The Coach says:

        Exactly, was going to make the same point. I enjoyed that system.

      3. stylesrj says:

        I always got the Airforce Base and it never developed beyond the runway.
        Every. Single. Time.

        1. The Coach says:

          I’m trying to remember what was available. Airbase, Army Base, Navy Base, and I think it was a Missile Silo?
          Whatever it was that last option was really hard to get. I think you needed a very mountainous map, which then made it a challenge to hit the population threshold.

  3. SeekerOfThePath says:

    In a sense, the genre is too stuck to its roots and the constraints on computational power back then. The only major change (I see) was going from top-down simulation to a bottom-up (agent-based) one. But nobody has been actually reinvented the genre since, not even CO with Skylines.

    Traffic is still seen as solving a flow network problem (see graph theory). But traffic is so much more than that in real life. Shamus correctly mentioned parking. I would immediately add road construction and maintenance to that. And cars do not travel at the same speed, nor do they accelerate or break at the same rate. And think how much GPS and mobile apps changed how we travel – instead of driving on major roads only and orienting ourselves by major intersections and landmarks, we now following the shortest or fastest route a piece of software dictates to us. Do you remember the news about the influx of traffic into the neighborhoods when “waze” app appeared?

    Buildings in the games are still static prefab pieces, both visually and mechanically. But we are not building new power plants so much as improving the technology in the existing ones. We are not building new residential buildings as much as adding new floors on top of the existing ones (where I live). We are not building new office buildings, but relaxing the city codes and cramming more employees into existing ones, even if that is a fire hazard. It is always a question of how to increase the operational efficiency of a building without taking up more land.

    Finally, why are the games still 2D simulations with 3D graphics? Where are my underground cities of poor people with only the rich people on the surface? Where are my multi-level cities with multi-level road systems? Where are the arcologies?

    1. Fulbert says:

      Oh, I totally agree about buildings being just static prefabs in CS. It would be great if they were more modular affairs, where they could change their fucntions depending or city regulations and demand, maybe combine functions such as residential and commercial, change signs of their facades to reflect the kind of business they are are occupied by, get renovated instead of just being torn down and rebuilt as they level up. And demolishing existing buildings shouldn’t be as effortless as it it currently is. I mean, it’s cool that you can completely destroy and rebuild entire neighbourhoods should you so desire but making the buildings more permanent and not easy to destroy by adding opposition from the local community would force the player to deal with the consequences of their earlier planning decisions, which would feed into the whole “city builder as a game where you solve emergent puzzles you have created for yourself” paradigm that CS was so good at with its traffic system.

      Speaking of the community, I’d love to see citizens (or CIMs, as they are called in the game) have a bit more agency. Shamus noticed how you need to build basic infrastructure every time you start a new city. Failing to do that means citizens will just not move in and any interruption in those services will just make them leave. But what if they could actively seek ways to satisfy their own demands if the city fails to do so? Say, should you neglect to build water and sewage pipes in the neighbourhood, the locals would dig wells and build outhouses and start poisoning the groundwater with their own crap. No electricity would mean portable generators that will pollute the air, or just resorting to wood-burning stoves and heaters. No waste collection would lead to makeshift landfills popping up in random places, once again damaging your city. Of course, you probably couldn’t maintain a proper city this way but a tiny village or maybe a city block temporarily cut off from the grid by a disaster? That would make an interesting challenge, I think.

      Heck, why not give your citizens a rebellious streak and have them come to your city and build their own shanties on unzoned land if there is a high unment demand for residential? Tropico did that and… well, that was annoying. Maybe let’s not do that.

      1. stylesrj says:

        I always thought if you lacked disposal services, people threw their trash in whatever and thus polluted the city as it piled up outside of buildings. Like makeshift landfills.

        1. Fulbert says:

          Oh yeah, it does kinda work like that. Would be great to make those landfills more visually apparent but otherwise it’s good as it is. Now if the rest of the utilities operated this way…

      2. Lino says:

        A good reason to change the game’s name to Skylines: when you said CS I immediately thought you were talking about Counter-Strike.

  4. SeekerOfThePath says:

    I doubt CO are going to reinvent the genre. They have the best game on the market and no competitor to speak of. They don’t need to.

    Economically, their best bet is to take the most popular mods and incorporate them into the game, add a couple of small & safe concepts (parking?), upgrade the visuals, slap number 2 behind the title, and let marketing do their job. And most importantly, make sure they left enough content out to sell in season pass DLCs for the next 5 years.

  5. Liessa says:

    I remember playing a demo of Descent in the mid-90s. That was the game that gave me motion sickness back when I didn’t get motion sickness.

    1. Droid says:

      Then you will doubtlessly be very happy to hear that the original Descent devs came together and made Overload, spritual successor of Descent and thus another six-degree-of-freedom shooter (a genre name that is very technically not inaccurate).

      1. Liessa says:

        I’m happy for people who like those games, but I never played the full game – or any others like it – as it made me feel so disoriented.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I couldn’t handle it when I was a kid, but I can handle it now. I guess getting a driver’s license, taking pilot lessons[1], and scuba-diving helped me learn 6DoF movement, instead of the usual up-is-always-up movement I use in normal life. :)

          [1] I never finished. :|

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Sublevel Zero is another 6DoF shoorter like Descent, with random levels and perma-death! I think I learned about it from Shamus here? It’s really good, although there’s not much story. Just shooting, looting, and running away, with some corrupted space-emails lying around. It’d be nice if it had some variety to the gameplay too, like…a little vivarium on your space-ship, Flight Of The Navigator-style. Then you could sit quietly looking at your pets…knowing that if you move, there’s death just around the corner…

      3. Richard says:

        That was a new game?

        I thought it was a remastering like Freespace SCP and Black Mesa.
        The trailers all look exactly as I remembered Descent.

        So I didn’t bother, as these days I’m more interested in a new story than in reliving that core gameplay loop.

  6. Fulbert says:

    Everything in the game is based around road traffic, which does not necessarily make much sense for farming and industries in general. A lot of goods IRL are hauled via railroad, so much that many plants have dedicated cargo terminals built on-site so that goods can be loaded and transported without need for transshipment. It does not work this way in Cities Skylines since the original game’s idea of industry is a lot of small workshops that bring materials in and ship finished goods via trucks exclusively. An insane amount of traffic is generated by industrial areas as the result, which can throttle the simulation as the max number of agents on the roads is limited and the neverending avalance of trucks denies cars to other parts of the city. The Industries expansion did nothing to mitigate this and arguably made the problem even worse as larger industries generate an even heavier stream of trucks.
    The Industries DLC was generally kinda dumb; it added some poorly-thought mechanics that clashed with the game’s core systems and failed to properly simulate the way actual industries worked anyway. Maybe CO should pay more attention to simulating industruial production in CS2 as this part of the game has historiacally been the weakest part of any SimCity-style citybuilders imo.

  7. Mousazz says:

    Regarding point nr. 6:
    Was Freespace 1 called “Descent: Freespace” by the community at the time it came out? Like, would people talk about it by referring to it as “Descent: Freespace”? Or would they colloquially drop the first word, just calling it “Freespace”? Because, as far as I’m aware, people are mostly calling “Cities: Skylines” by its full name (but usually omitting the colon). Therefore, dropping the “Cities” from the title could lead to confusion.

    1. Asdasd says:

      Over here in Europe it was called Conflict: Freespace, which really only adds to the confusion.

      1. Richard says:

        At the time it didn’t.
        I never did (still don’t) call it “Conflict: Freespace”, and I only discovered “Descent: Freespace” was one of the brandings when I found the Freespace Source Code Project many years later.

        Freespace II just continued what fans of the game were already calling it.

        I am still very sad that there still doesn’t seem to be a game that even attempts to fill the same niche since FS2.

        The story was good, the space dogfighting excellent fun and with plenty of tradeoffs to suit multiple playstyles.
        (FS1 and FS2 did have a few semi-broken missions, these days they’d be fixed by a first-week patch of course)

        I suspect this might be because weapons, shield and energy management really needs more buttons than are available on an XBox/PS controller. Joystick and keyboard isn’t an option on a console.

    2. tmtvl says:

      And then we start thinking back to the Star Wars Dark Forces Jedi Knight series.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Star Wars Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy: Dark Forces IV

    3. Syal says:

      It’s “Dark Souls”, but it’s “a Souls game”. “Skylines” should be fine.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Well, it was Demon’s Souls, but Sony had the copyright so when From went to Bamco they needed to change name.

        1. Syal says:

          And so the sequel here can be New Skylines, or Scraped Skylines or something, so Skylines would become the reference name.

    4. Echo Tango says:

      “Skylines” by itself might also not work enough, for new-comers to know that it’s a city-builder game. :)

  8. Adam says:

    I’d like to see the “regions” from SimCity 4 (I think?). A bunch of separate cities and saves, but each interconnected by trade and utilities. Makes it interesting for the player if they want (specialization vs generalist, small towns with massive through traffic, etc) and gives a potentially smoother difficulty curve (not enough water? build up the next city over to sell it to you!). Of course, you’d need to handle the simulation side of it better than Sim City 4 did, but I have no doubts Colossal Order could do it if they wished to. Just don’t try to give the illusion that they join up directly to each other – that’s silly.

    They could even then add “multiplayer” in a mostly asynchronous way without many problems since its essentially just a savefile that gets synced periodically.

  9. MilesDryden says:

    I completely agree about the name, if for no reason other than “Cities : Skylines” is just awkward to say.

  10. BlueHorus says:

    That situation with the death waves made me laugh. Just the idea of a family sharing a house with a rotting corpse, slowly getting more and more angry at the city planner for not taking away grandma’s body.
    Well, that and the idea of crematoriums being as common as coffee shops. You could have the two businesses next door to each other, set up cross-promotions, corporate tie-ins*…

    It reminds me of a D&D campaign I was playing in, where an important member of the town we were in had been murdered. The party Cleric took his body out in a box to the church to prepare him for burial, but then we got a lead on where the killer had gone so we gave chase…
    …into the Feywild. Sadly, we didn’t know that in the campaign there was a time dilation effect in the Feywilds (one day there was over a week in the Material Plane), so after three days, we came back to find that an angry mob had rampaged through the church over the perceived disrespect of the murdered NPC, seeing as he’d been lying there in a box for nearly a month.
    Of course, the party’s response of ‘Well why didn’t YOU bury him, jackass?’ didn’t go down that well with the townsfolk…

    * ‘Wow, that new coffee shop that just opened up sure is cheap! Weird name, though – Soylent Bean?’)

    1. Steve C says:

      Ironically leaving a body unburied for a month is not uncommon. It depends. It’s common in the UK for example. Obviously not left in a house but it is fine left in a box at a church etc.

      1. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

        Apparently common in New England, too – burials have to wait for the ground to thaw in April.

    2. Geebs says:

      I think we may finally have uncovered the reason why Starbucks coffee tastes so oddly burnt.

  11. zackoid says:

    Probably worth mentioning that there’s a Skylines Humble Bundle right now. Similar CK2 and EU4 bundles were by far the cheapest way to get DLC for those games so I assume the same is true for this one.

    The thing I want from a next generation citybuilder is to be constrained by the past. Nobody would build Boston like it is today, except they don’t have a choice because you can’t just bulldoze down the existing street grid. Unfortunately the only fun way I can think of is to change it to a through-the-ages type game where you start at an earlier technological age which is another genre entirely.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Not necessarily. SimCity 1, 2000, 3000 all had “through the ages” progress. Nuclear power is only available post-1950s, solar isn’t around until the 1980s or 1990s, I think in 3000 there was even tech industry as separate zoning that only became available later.

  12. Nixorbo says:

    The picture of the farm reminds me of the Harrisburg, PA, region the day a tanker exploded and burned down a highway overpass, shutting down 3 major highways during the morning rush hour.

  13. Abnaxis says:

    I feel like your plot of land should start with a major road going through it, which already has traffic. Basically, you’re filling in the space between two pre-existing cities, and your initial water/power/landfill/etc. comes from one of the two.

    In fact, if we really want to go crazy with the upgrades, I’m thinking it’d be interesting if you didn’t even own the initial road because you aren’t the high overlord of your domain. Put a province/state government above you, that you can lobby to upgrade your artery, enact regulations and economic incentives that benefit your city and so on. Add a system where you can campaign to your populace for to enact or block province-wide legislation, and put in systems for running elections efficiently (or maybe less efficiently for the citizens you disagree with, if you really want to be a tyrant).

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      That sounds interesting, but it also sounds like we’ve stopped being a city-building game and become a mayoral politics simulator. You can’t get too simulationist in these games without fundamentally changing the genre, and I think a lot of players want to treat the game like a sandbox, where dealing with state government is nothing but an obstacle to building their cool city.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I mean, from that perspective all those pesky driving on the the roads are getting in the way of players building their perfect city.citizens

        I wasn’t thinking full simulationist, just putting a “community center” building in there that provides voting service the same way fire stations give fire service–except adding the layer that if a particular residential zone has people you don’t want voting, you can decide to bulldoze the center in exchange for making people unhappy.

        One more plate to spin along side the fire/school/utility/traffic played that are already there

  14. Agammamon says:

    No joke. This is what traffic looks like around farmland in Cities: Skylines.

    I live in a farming area – that’s kinda how it looks around here for part of the year too.

    n Cities Skylines, farms count as industrial areas, and industrial areas generate huge amounts of traffic. So instead of farms being dirt roads with the occasional tractor, they generate downtown Los Angeles levels of traffic.

    That’s how it is during harvests though. 6 months without a single farm vehicle in sight and 4 months of gridlocked traffic on roads out in the middle of nowhere as massive amounts of product are moved from farm to refrigerator and then on to the customer.

    1. Steve C says:

      I also live in a farming area. It never looks like that.

    2. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

      I have never seen this in Cities: Skylines, though, and I wonder if I’m just not building enough farms “right.” I’ve also never had the deathwave. My problem is when someone dies at an industrial area, and no hearse will get out there to pick the body up.

  15. Nick Pitino says:

    “I’m not suggesting we should have the game simulate all the financial and engineering concerns of moving water through a city.”

    I don’t know, I’ve been watching a bunch of Practical Engineering videos lately and part of me is like it would be super cool if you had to put in water pumps/towers in the correct places to maintain water pressure. It would also be interesting to see the simulation of water scarcity and importation. Dry areas on the coast having to build desalination plants, pumping water out of aquifers but having that be a resource you could pump dry, strategically building dams to divert water into canals. Having to do all of the above to irrigate farmland!

    1. SupahEwok says:

      I was coming down here to half-assedly dispute Shamus’ point about “water flowing uphill” in Cities Skylines. I spent my freshman year of college in a civil engineering program, which I think was 8 years ago and I ended up flunking out (I never took to Chemistry), BUT I think I recall that municipal water systems are under pressure, as you mentioned above. It’s how they can draw water up to the towers or something, and then pipe it around the city even if the city (or sections of it) are on slopes.

      Now, if we wanted to get crazy, you mentioned pumping aquifers dry. The next step would be simulating subsidence as the city sinks into the drained space underground; Houston is a case study of all the problems that come with that.

      1. Addie says:

        UK water engineer here: generally, we have discrete local distribution zones for villages / urban areas, which are fed from a reservoir on the top of a nearby hill, or a water tower if the geography really doesn’t suit a res (eg. in really flat places like East Anglia where there’s nothing convenient nearby). Reservoirs are fed by trunk mains from the nearest water treatment works. It’s not unknown for the trunk mains to be under fifteen bar or more of pressure, so that we can fill reservoirs in high-up places, but the DZ’s tend to be under a maximum of about three, otherwise they’d leak like crazy.

        That would work well with Shamus’ idea; plonk down a reservoir / tower and connect them up to your local treatment works as the strategic infrastructure, and assume that they provide water to a zone of equal-height terrain around them. That would be both realistic and would reduce the busywork. You could simulate treatment works being down for maintenance, and being able to keep reservoirs filled from elsewhere, if you wanted a bit more ‘interesting’ complexity.

      2. Shas'Ui says:

        You might have the wrong issue of water flowing uphill: in my most recent game, everyone got sick all of a sudden because my 3 water intake pumps were drawing enough water out of the river that sewage was flowing uphill from my drains, which were well downstream(opposite ends of a purchase-tile, prob 10~25miles) .
        The flow rate of rivers vs the rate of pumps can cause some weirdness, as seen in youtube videos where people will drain the entire ocean on a coastal map.

      3. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

        Not an engineer, but I worked in a city -the engineers there explained that we had a hybrid system. Reservoirs were used to store water but the pipes were pressurized. That had the side bonus of making it easier to lay pipes, but it’s actual purpose was flood protection. The pipes being pressurized meant we could pump water out of the creeks and reservoirs into the river during high water days. They had a whole chart about when to turn on pumps and close flood doors.

        It also had a bad side -which is the reason that, even though they could pump water up hill, they tried really hard not to. We had a city power outage that affected the downtown (where city hall was located -where I worked). City hall was up hill of the reservoir. The toilets all stopped working. Worse, the reservoir was downhill (towards the river), but the sewage treatment plant was uphill (on a nice bluff, overlooking the river). So after an hour or so, the toilets began running backwards in the basement. (Third floor, of course, the toilets just didn’t work.)

        While we’re talking sewage -small cities in the US would have had their sewage dumped directly into the river as recently as the 1990s. Small governments couldn’t afford even level 1 treatment plants (basically open cisterns to let water sit while particulates filtered out). The US Federal Government began a series of loan programs to get every city in the country to at least Level 1 treatment, and then larger cities to Level 2 (chemical and biological treatment). When I was in grad school (late 2000s) the program was still finishing up the last Level 1 construction projects.

        1. Richard says:

          That is insane.
          I don’t think there’s a single place in Western Europe that has anything less than what you’re describing as Level 2 for a few decades.

          Eastern Europe more recently, but that’s mostly because of the multiple wars and conflicts.

  16. CraigM says:

    I really like the parking lot idea. It adds a dynamic element to the already best part of the game, the traffic simulation. And if done right it creates multiple viable play states, as you noted. Dense public transit heavy, or American suburb parking lot sprawl.

    And given that this is a huge element of modern zoning and city planning it seems an obvious inclusion. And in my time playing Skylines, I had not considered that fully (granted I am sure I played it less than you Shamus, another Paradox game is my first love).

    If they take nothing else from the list, that alone would be justification for the sequel.

  17. Shamus, you need to be careful not to put text commentary along the bottom of the video because it’ll conflict with the subtitles.

  18. Philadelphus says:

    I think I can agree with all of these points, though I’ve never really seen a death wave myself; maybe I just naturally expand slowly enough that it’s not an issue or something. Still, I see no need to simulate individual hearses. Maybe change it so you just need to make sure you’ve got some graveyards/crematoria around (based on population), and abstract it away slightly. This seems like a classic case of “everything looks like a nail”, because they had this great* traffic simulation and decided to tie every single system into that.

    Absolutely agree that power and water are not interesting to lay. I usually forget about them while absorbed in laying out new suburbs because they’re so forgettable…until a few thousand people are passive-aggressive tweeting at me because they have no water. Either make it more involved (and, importantly, interesting), or abstract it away in favor of more fun element.

    I too feel like farms are just…not represented well. Like, I want to just be able to paint vast fields on the map—much larger than the dinky ones you get—whose shape is influenced by the terrain and topography, not constrained to nice neat rectangles. That’s not what real farms look like most of the time.

    Actually, what I’d really like to see is a seasonal progression that makes sense. I believe CO when they said they couldn’t get the engine to work so that maps could switch from snowy to not and back again in the (ironically named) Snowfall DLC—so fix that for the sequel. Right now, cities exist in a sort of perpetual limbo where the passage of time doesn’t really matter. For Skylines 2, I want to have a full seasonal simulation, where the latitude you pick impacts how much snow you get in winter (which would lead to interesting variations in gameplay), or how severe your seasons are (tie that into disasters, have a “tornado season” or “hurricane season”).† They added the concept of the academic year in the Campus DLC, but it doesn’t really feel like a year has passed whenever it pops up (more, “shoot, I forgot to fund that grant this year because there was nothing cluing me into the fact that another year has gone by!”). This could tie into a better handling of farms, where they have different needs and different amounts of activity depending on the season and weather.

    Also, get the engine to more gracefully handle building on slopes that aren’t perfectly plane-flat. The weird berms and awkward slopes it generates always look like an eye-sore, and discourage me from building communities up the sides of hills or anything like that.

    *Your mileage of valuation of greatness of traffic simulation may vary.

    †Maybe this could be something you pick for each map when you start a city, so you could have the same map but for one city have it in the tropics and for another have it above the Arctic circle, which would also increase player options and replayability.

    1. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

      Concur with the seasonal fixes wish. On water -I make it interesting by requiring myself to build water mains along roads. However, I think there could be an interesting adaptation of the old Caesar III system: use pipes to connect reservoirs to the rivers (the reservoir being the water tower or whatever), but in-building piping is only possible within a radius of the reservoir, not the pipes themselves.

  19. Moridin says:

    “But if we’re not going to have religious or ceremonial buildings, then it feels really weird to simulate deathcare. It would be like having tons of schools in a gameworld that contains no children. ”

    Even without religious influences, you have to take care of dead bodies SOMEHOW. It isn’t as if you can expect people to bury their grandpa in the backyard(not to mention hygiene concerns if people were to actually do this for most corpses)… especially if they don’t even have one.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Well, the game doesn’t simulate dentistry either. Just because there’s a real-world concern doesn’t mean it will translate well into city-planning gameplay.

      1. Hector says:

        Yes; this is just not a concern that cities ever need involve themselves with. I’m actually all for including things like churches or graveyards, but the fact that Deathwaves even exist is just *weird*. This is not how cities function and it doesn’t make sense as a planning decision.

        1. They could solve the “wave” issue simply by including some random variables when the citizen’s expiration date is created. It must track them individually anyway, so why have it that they all have exactly the same “lifespan”?

          1. Richard says:

            Likely they are randomised.

            If 200 citizens come into existence with a randomised expiry date of between 50 and 60 years, that still means 49 years there’s zero dead bodies, then the next decade has approx. 20 corpses a year.
            So at the 55 year mark approx. 100 corpses have needed processing.

            Real lifespans have a bell curve, and if that’s simulated the problem get even worse!

      2. Moridin says:

        A graveyard takes a lot more space than a dentist’s office.

    2. Syal says:

      you have to take care of dead bodies SOMEHOW.

      Put a ‘bodies’ section in the landfill.

  20. Hector says:

    I do want to make a suggestion to Shamus about his Youtube channel. Since I am not a big popular YT personality, he should feel free to take this with a giant grain of salt. However: Sure, *I* like it. I’m fine with quirky and less-popular content like Skylines. I don’t mind a bit if you do some fun videos showing what you enjoy. However!

    I do think you need to consider what your goals are with the YT channel and build your content to that, or accept that this just isn’t going to be popular. I’m a little concerned that you may have unrealistic expectations. A video uploaded once every two weeks is skating the very far edge of what you can get away with on YT. Most successful channels try to have multiple videos weekly unless they are oriented towards very niche themes. Like it or not, video game critique simply isn’t rare and your content is by no means the most in-depth. That’s not intended as criticism, but a statement of fact. Again, I like it, but even I think your channel is a bit thin. The year is half over and you have… seven videos since January. Unless you’re hitting home runs with every swing that won’t cut it.

    Some time ago I kept bugging you to put the Diecast on YT, and still listen weekly. I do think you sort of missed the best time to start doing that, which would have been right around when the Fallout video was blowing up. The point was to offer some regular content though.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to be the Arrogant-Know-It-All of Marketing, but did want to make a pointed suggestion since you talked about it on the video.

    1. The Diecast IS on YT, it’s just on Paul Spooner’s channel, not Shamus’s.

      1. Hector says:

        Yes, I know. My point is that it’s obviously not going to help Shamus’ channel by adding content.

  21. Rick says:

    I’ve only played Skylines on PS4, and I’d love to have got it on PC. If they bring out number 2, I’ll get it on PC for sure.

    As for any changes I’d be looking for, most of them are tied up in the mods that I obviously can’t access. Parking is one, to be sure. It’s strange to see a worker leave his office and take a car out his pocket for the commute home.

    But the biggest struggle I have with my cities traffic issues are often fixed by the PCs traffic and lane flow mods. The lane selectors, left/right run only options, mini roundabouts and roundabout generators, roundabout management tools etc. None of these are available on PS4. That, along with the scant few pre-fab junctions available really hold back the true Skylines experience for me.

    Finally, I dabbled a bit in Simcity4 before grabbing a copy of SimCity Societies. A completely different game with its own set of issues, but I did like the feature of a city changing its own ‘atmosphere’ as you set down particular buildings. Adding more Authoritarian features resulted in cosmetic changes like increased security cameras etc. Something like this would be a great way to bring more personality into a city, or even individual regions within a city.

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