Cities XL 2011

By Shamus Posted Monday Apr 11, 2011

Filed under: Game Reviews 159 comments


Cities XL 2011 is a city-building affair which was unfortunately given a name that makes it sound like a government form. (Cities XL 2011? Really Hasbro? This is what we’re calling this game? Notice how, years ago, someone named them “Transformers” instead of “Plastic Car-Robots 1984”. Let us reflect on the wisdom of this.) For me this game was a four-day obsession, followed by furious bickering, sulking, and estrangement. But I’m getting ahead of myself…


Back in 2009, developer Monte Cristo released Cities XL, a strategy game along the lines of Sim City. The hook was that it was an online game. Each city had needs: Fuel, food, electricity, water, industry, manufacturing, high-tech, and so on. It was really inefficient to be self-sufficient, simply because some endeavors preclude others. In a city of factories, power plants, and oil fields, it’s going to be hard to come up with enough clean drinking water. It’s hard to come up with enough fuel and industry if your land is given over to farming. And so on. By trading with other players, you could specialize and thus make a larger and more successful city.


I didn’t play it. And as far as I can tell, neither did anyone else. Apparently “MMO Sim City” wasn’t a concept for which gamers were hungering. I would also argue that while multiplayer Sim City might be fun, it’s not “ten bucks a month” fun. If they had gone free-to-play and sold special buildings and other premium items, they might have done a lot better.

The rights to the franchise were bought by Hasbro, and just a year later they came out with Cities XL 2011. The single-player aspect of the game was expanded and the multiplayer was dropped, and what remained was a possible contender for the Sim City throne. Let’s pit the games directly against one another for our own amusement. (Note: All screenshots here are for Cities XL 2011, not Sim City.)


In Sim City, you must zone for commercial space, residential space, and industrial space. There’s a fixed ratio for these. You need A block of commercial and a block of industrial for every two blocks of residential. You want to put the residential as close as possible to both commercial and industrial, so that people don’t need to drive very far to get to the store or to work. Otherwise your city will be gridlocked in no time. All of this simply encourages excessively mechanical building.

For the uninitiated: Green is residential. (Houses and apartment buildings.) Yellow is industrial. (Tractor factories.) Blue is commercial. (Wal-Mart.) The gray is roads. The government buildings in the middle cost money to build and run, and have a maximum effective radius.
For the uninitiated: Green is residential. (Houses and apartment buildings.) Yellow is industrial. (Tractor factories.) Blue is commercial. (Wal-Mart.) The gray is roads. The government buildings in the middle cost money to build and run, and have a maximum effective radius.

Cities XL 2011 (hereafter CXL) doesn’t allow you to settle into nice even patterns like this. It’s less brutal with traffic, which allows you to build naturally, as opposed to trying to construct a Borg cube. It’s a much deeper simulation, to the point wher you can click on an individual house and see exactly where the inhabitant works. Every business is a little simulation in itself, hiring and firing and procuring resources. The different building types are also not as simplistic as “commercial” and “industrial”. You have:

  1. Heavy Industry (Steel mills and the like.)
  2. Manufacturing (Factories making TV sets or toasters or whatever it is people buy.)
  3. High Tech (Software and internet companies, I assume.)
  4. Office space (Accounting and insurance type stuff, I guess.)
  5. Business hotels, which are distinct from…
  6. Tourist hotels.

But these businesses consume each other’s output at different rates. You need a hotel for every ten offices or so. Maybe you need an Office for every five Heavy Industry outfits. And you’ll need seven Heavy Industry buildings for every five Factories. And you need both Factories and Office to support High Tech, also in inconvenient ratios. The upshot is that you can’t just design a couple of self-contained city blocks and repeat them over and over. This encourages you to grow more organically, looking for needs and zoning for them.


One interesting twist is how residential is broken up. In Sim City, residential is simply divided into classifications of increasing density. You can zone for individual homes, for apartment buildings, or for high-rise buildings. In CXL, the game adds the additional idea of zoning for specific economic classes.

On one hand, it feels unseemly to decide, “My blue-collar workers will live here, and my fatcats will live here”. On the other hand, it gives you a lot more control over how your city looks. If you like, your rich people can live on wide boulevards by the lake and you can jam the poor people into the valley between the power plant and the oil refinery. You can pack the houses together for downtown housing, or you can space the houses out to make suburbs.


Since houses align with the nearest road, you can make winding country roads and twisted suburban cul-de-sacs. Again, it feels very natural and organic, and escapes the tyrannical grids of Sim City. I know Sim City 4 introduced bending roads, but they were finicky and the houses still wanted to line up with the world grid. Here you can build an entire city on a slight northeast diagonal, or build in concentric circles, or torment your inhabitants with a Bostonian habitrail of tunnels and roundabouts. CXL is also much better about building on rolling hills.


One aspect of the game that I don’t like is that you can’t make your own landscapes. You have to pick from one of the pre-made landscapes. You start at the world map and choose a site for your city. Perhaps you want the river delta with lots of farming and tourist appeal. Or the island with tourist appeal and oil. Or the plateaus with farming and water. But if you want to make a plateau tourist attraction, or a canyon with surrounding farms, then you’re out of luck. And I hope you weren’t thinking of trying to replicate a real-world city. (Unless it’s Paris, which is in the game with the roads already in place.)


Okay, that’s out of the way. I’ve drawn a picture of the game for you and you should have a pretty good idea of what this thing is all about. Lots of good, creative fun with a few rough edges and a few holes where Obvious Features might go. Here is how my relationship with the game came to an end:

It was the largest city I’d managed to construct so far. I was focusing on High Tech. I was exporting my Tech and using the money to import water. Everything was great. The city was balanced and attractive, and grew about as fast as I could lay down zones and roads. Lots of parks, excellent education program, no crime, and I was pulling in about $20k a month. My only problem was slight pollution.

Then I noticed the last couple of offices I’d zoned had never been built. I waited, but after a year there was still no office building. Previously built offices were suddenly going out of business. Then my Tech companies began going under because they couldn’t get the office service they needed. Office was in extreme demand, and yet offices were going out of business. This change was abrupt and unexplained.


After a few minutes I got a notification in red letters: There’s something wrong with the offices!

Yeah, I know. But WHAT? The simulation wouldn’t give me a clue. This made no sense. Plenty of workers. All of the other various services looked good. I felt like like the zoo keeper in charge of the pandas. These people had everything they needed, they just refused to survive.

My Tech companies went out of business. Since they were the backbone of my economy, I went from making $20k to losing $30k a month. I had five million in the bank, but since I was losing money the game refused to let me trade, which means my water imports stopped. Suddenly half the city was unemployed and had no running water, and the mass exodus began. I let it run while I built things and lowered taxes in an effort to coax them into doing some damn office work. The game kept telling me that “something” was wrong with offices.


Since the game auto-saves, it wasn’t possible to just revert to an earlier state. I’d put six hours into this city, and in the space of fifteen minutes it was reduced to a complete wasteland because “something” was wrong with offices. This was a series of multiple failures on the part of the game. Businesses should not refuse to operate in the face of extreme demand. The game should explain the source of a problem of this magnitude. I should have been able to trade for water with the money I had in the bank. And existing offices shouldn’t have abruptly failed in the first place.

I Googled. Nobody else seems to have encountered this problem, but it still managed to ruin Cities XL 2011 for me, forever. Sure, I lost my city, but I also lost my faith in the simulation itself. See, I like to believe that the underlying system makes some sort of sense. Perhaps I insist on it. When it becomes obvious that the thing is catastrophically arbitrary, it loses its appeal as a playground. Even doing well loses its appeal, because there’s always the knowledge that I’m doing well at running a nonsense city of random bullshit. Worse, since I don’t know what went wrong, I don’t know that it won’t happen again the next time I start doing well.

It’s a terrible shame. I really was enjoying the game until the facade collapsed.


From The Archives:

159 thoughts on “Cities XL 2011

  1. Bluespike5 says:

    hmm, I had the same problem. You’d be going along great, but if you went too fast, or one thing went wrong. It could snowball badly.

    Though I did like the the whole zoom down to street level, it actually reminded me of your city screensaver thing. I really liked that part of the game.

  2. Zaxares says:

    Damn. You had me convinced that CXL2011 was THE game to finally dethrone Sim City from its position of “favourite sandbox game” up until you described the bug/design flaw you ran into. :/ I really love the way that you can build cities organically, although the inability to design your own landscapes is a major setback in my books.

    1. rayen says:

      look simcity 4 couldn’t dethrone simcity 3000. That says 3000 is going to be king for a long time. course i’m mistrustful of newer games. Spore was too big of a disappointment.

      1. Kyte says:

        Dunno what you mean, AFAIK SC4 is by far the most popular of the SC franchise. Just look at the amount of mods and fansite dedication.

      2. Blanko2 says:

        uhm 3000 is considered the worst iteration by a lot of people.

  3. JPH says:

    Well that’s disappointing. I’ve played and enjoyed certain sim games before, but never a sim city game. At this point I don’t know which game would be good as a starting point, though I guess you’ve done enough to show me that Cities XL 2011 isn’t the one.

    1. 2tm says:

      Personally I think that Sim City 2000 is the best gateway game, and may still be my favorite overall.

      1. Kyte says:

        Sim City 2000 is simple enough to start with while feeling like a kiddie toy. It’s perfect to start. Then you can move to SC3k or bite the bullet and move right into SC4. Mechanics change, but the base skills are the same.
        Plus, the graphics don’t offend your eyes even if they’re from the Windows 95 era.

  4. Grag says:

    Mayor Google demands Item in Office.

  5. skeeto says:

    Your problem sounds a lot like the problem I always had with SimTower. Everything’s going really great for an hour or so, but as soon as my tower hits a certain size some sort of terrible threshold is crossed. At that point everyone starts moving out for reasons unknown, my budget plummets, and I have to start over.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Really? SimTower? I built at least half a dozen 100-story towers with all kinds of different make-ups; all-hotel (HARD), all-office (EXTREMELY HARD -> you’ll have to start lowering all rents to the bare minimum), all-entertainment (only viable once you’ve got 4 stars or so – build up a regular tower, tear it down, build it up again),…

      Once you’ve got…I think 2 stars? Maybe three? your offices start degrading with age. At lowest levels of rent, you’ll get them rented out, but not much higher. Also, offices next to lobbies at ever 15 floors, hotel rooms in between…And make sure you have enough stairs. The biggest problem in SimTower was making do with the limit number of certain commodities (only 64 stairs, 32 elevators, 32 (I think) escalators,…)

      1. Lanthanide says:

        Wow, I could never get above about 2 or 3 stars because it started to feel like a huge spreadsheet.

        1. Nathon says:

          Mmmm, adventures in spreadsheets…SimTower was such a great game.

    2. Ingvar says:

      It’s probably the lift system. SimTower is, at core, a lift/elevator simulator, with an office veneer put over it for gamification purposes. Get your lifts running optimally is (alas) the key (nopes, never played the game, but I do read the No Twinkie annual column with great mirth).

      1. Jeff says:

        It’s true. Don’t know what you’re doing and you’ll have lots of red folks. Proper usage of transportation is key, as well as funneling foot traffic. Elevator stops on every level is a waste of time, get those lazy punks going up and down elevators and stairs.

    3. Storm Kraken says:

      I had the same problem! I would be doing great, and then all of a sudden everyone decided to move out at the same time. What’s worse it that the rooms they left would somehow be left in a state such that no one else would want to move into them. It was an interesting game, but that one problem really ruined it.

  6. Jjkaybomb says:

    Developer realized you’re winning, and tried to throw you a curve ball, like Sim City’s disasters. Those were interesting challenges, made you lament the destruction of your city, but didnt completely destroy it. What Hasbro’s done is made a design disaster… they’re just chucking baseballs at your head and screaming “CONFLICT! FUN?!”

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Sounds like gym classes way back from school-times.

  7. rofltehcat says:

    In all simulation games I played something like this happened.

    In Tropico 3, my builders would just stop building. On the forums people suggested increasing their work quality and decreasing their work time while supplying them with all the garages, homes and whatever they wanted but no matter how well I cared for them they just stopped building stuff.

    In the Guild 2, the black death would just kill everyone off before you could produce a single bottle of the cure for it. Of course instead of servicing the 20 customers in their waiting room, the NPC healers were just standing around and watching as their waiting room filled with corpses.

    In Patrician 2, expenses seemed to rise and trade profits seemed to decrease without any explanation as to why this happened.

    Back in the day when I played Settlers 2, I had several roads next to each other. Once my town got over a certain treshold, the settlers decided that transporting all my goods over one of the three roads would be a good idea opposed to transporting equal amounts over each of the roads. Even tearing down the favored road didn’t help because now they wouldn’t want to transport at all. They even tried transporting goods over those buggy roads that were not needed anywhere near there. Obviously transporting all the grain to the woodcutters sounds like a good idea when the storehouse for grain (grain was blocked in all other warehouses in an attempt to stop the transportation failures) and a few mills are directly next door, don’t you think?

    Maybe sometimes it is an attempt to make the game harder after a while to prevent the player from getting bored by presenting new challenges but mostly it just seems bugged. Especially since most of those problems don’t seem to give the player the opportunity to fix whatever is wrong.

    1. Zukhramm says:

      But for there to be a challange there needs to be some way to handle it, and if there’s no indication to what problem you need to solve there’s really no challange.

      1. rofltehcat says:

        Yeah, as I said it seems bugged.
        If there is no realistic way you can cure your character (and most of the town so you won’t get infected again) from the black death, then it is an instant game ender.
        If there is no way to get the offices running again, there is also a game ender.

        If the offices just ran out of paper for example, it could be solved by buying more paper. But it doesn’t tell you whether they ran out of paper or whether something different happened. Maybe nothing happened at all and the game is just bugging around? Maybe the offices reached a critical mass at which point they just collapse because the game doesn’t know how to handle all those offices?
        Maybe the hire&fire-system Shamus mentioned went mad and they kept hiring and firing from each other so the office people couldn’t get any work done?

        If there is no way to fix it, it is pretty discouraging people from playing the game. After all the same stuff might happen when they start new.

    2. Falcon_47 says:

      Your problem with the settlers 2 is a very well known one. You see, the game is old, and it seems that in the progress of making it, there were some “Technical limitations” with how many orders your settlers could do at any given time. It basically means that you could only build a certain number of roads before the game system got overcrowded with transport orders and started collapsing. It happened to me so many times T_T…

    3. Someone says:

      That Tropico 3 problem is weird, I’ve never had that happen to me and I must have logged in a good 80 hours into this game. On the other hand, I always played scenarios.

      Did you play scenarios or did you just build up one huge island in sandbox mode?

      1. rofltehcat says:

        Both. Normally happened when after a while when I had so much money that I could finally build all the stuff that I had been keeping back on. But then suddenly the builders stopped doing anything and even keeping them very happy and micromanaging all build site priorities didn’t help. Sometimes they wouldn’t even continue after I had torn down all the new construction sites and just placed 2-3 new ones.

        I even sometimes left the game running in window-mode while surfing for a few hours (ofc. still clicked the notifications away) and they wouldn’t get much done in that time.

        1. Someone says:

          Well, here are the problems I could think of:

          1) If your city is really huge, and that largely pertains to decades of building up a single sandbox city, the distance and bad pathfinding may be the problem. If you put down a building and have 1 construction office right across the street from it and 1 on the other side of the island, there is no guarantee the game won’t pick the farthest one. The workers might spend so much time in transit, they don’t have time left to actually work. Razing the faraway construction offices might solve it.

          2) It seems that, regardless of the working hours, the workers just go on siesta the moment one of their needs drops below a certain threshold. So, it may be that there aren’t enough pubs/churches/clinics in the vicinity, so they have to drive away from the construction sites every time they get a craving for something.

          3) You have to put roads next to all buildings, even if they don’t have a garage and don’t connect with roads by the two green arrows, as the construction workers will drive as close as possible to the site, and then continue on foot.

          4) You do need to raise the pay every once in a while. Time and inflation work their magic, and average Caribbean pay, which the workers like to compare with their own pay, increases by a dollar or two every once in a while.

          That’s all I can come up with. Again, I never bothered with sandbox, but I played long scenarios, and built pretty much everything, except some of the megalomania monuments in the expansion. Skyscraper hotels, distant power plants, airports, TV Stations – you name it. Never had problems like that.

          1. SKD says:

            So basically what you are saying is the builders are all union.

            1. Someone says:

              In Tropico 1, loading the cargo ships with Tropican goods required building a “Teamsters Union”.

              Now those people NEVER got off their asses.

          2. Slothful says:

            Also: Too many projects, and they’ll get confused and work on NONE OF THEM.

          3. Bubble181 says:

            Yep. Seen it quite a few times; number 1, 2 and 3 combine for some horrible working hours.
            Say they’re workign 14 hour shifts. That means they arrive at their office, walk to a garage, take a car, drive over, get out of their car, walk to the construction site, realize they need some Spiritual Healing, walk back to their car, drive to a garage, walk to church, walk back to the garage, get heir truck out again, drive to the construction site, arrive there, realize they’ve worked for 11 hours already, walk back to their truck, drive back to the office, and arrive just in time to stop their 14-hour work day. That’s not them not working, that’s them wasting time in transit…

  8. Wolfwood says:

    Now thats the kind of random event that kind of makes me want to find out y it happened. Maybe it was CXL way of inducing disasters randomly like Sim City?

    just so happens it’ll completely break your city rather than just causing a bit of devastation in an area XD

  9. Phoenix says:

    Reading their forum it looks like it has also other bugs. I know the feeling, bugs can ruin completely the potential of a game even if you’re patient. It’s a shame because otherwise this game looks interesting.

  10. Abnaxis says:

    I read this article and I think what’s happening to your offices is one of three things:

    1) You found a bug. That sucks, and seems to be a good reason to quit if it is what is going on. Unfortunately, this is the most likely scenario.

    2) Something really is wrong, and not telling you exactly what is going wrong is a feature of the game. I actually find this to be more true to real life, and very interesting. It forces you to seek out what you think the problem is, and try to solve it with limited information.

    Take 20 people, put them in a room, and ask them about any problem facing society today. You will come out with at least five different reasons for that problem (assuming five people even consider it a problem), 20 different solutions for it, and 80 different ways the respondents think the current government is dealing with it wrong. Furthermore, you will rarely see anyone who thinks their line of thinking has any logical flaws or that there is any logical way to come up with a different perspective.

    The game might be taking advantage of this phenomenon. You see offices failing, and you investigate. You see a crime hike and a property value dip. Which is causing the other? What effect will any given solution have on the problem? I can give economic incentives, but that doesn’t help (as much) if businesses don’t feel safe opening in the district. I up police coverage, but that doen’t help (as much) if the land is worthless.

    I think this is a very interesting uncertainty to play with, that would be robbed if the game came right up and said, “There have been a lot of robberies in the office district. Up police coverage or businesses will start to move out.” However, I can also see where such a feature would be discouraging and feel cheap when you lose and have no idea why. Maybe there should be a way to switch it off, or see what was going on after the city falls down in ruins…

    3) The game can’t be more specific. Again, from what you said, there is a lot of complex math and chaotic systems under the hood of this simulator (if they’re doing it right). It might very well be meaningless or impossible to tell you why something is happening.

    Take my crime example again. Say the simulator randomly generated a massive crime spree in the office district. This caused a great deal of concern over safety, and a few offices moved out. This caused a panic with investors and realtors, which drove company values and property values down. This caused more bussinesses to move out. That caused all the people who keep offices runnning to move out. That caused the offices themselves to degrade to the point where you need a whole new set of experts to restore them…

    Now you come in and you see your offices are failing. This is a multi-faceted problem, with security, staffing, investment, expertise, real-estate and logistics. Every dimension of the problem has its own set of possible solutions, which in in-turn depend on how you solved another problem. It’s not just “Here’s a problem, fix it” anymore.

    And of course, this is all assuming the computer can even figure out what’s wrong to tell you. It might sound silly for a computer to not know what’s going on in a program, but I have run many complicated simulations myself. When you have multiple interacting systems in a choatic environment, you have to really tear the thing apart and think critically to figure out why the simulation is giving you the results its giving sometimes. I can’t imagine it is trivial to write software that will tear things down and diagnose a problem for you when a simulation becomes in-depth enough.

    Now, if Item #1 is your problem, then this game stinks, and it deserves all the ire we can throw at it. But if we’re seeing the effects of Items #2 or 3, then HOLY CRAP THIS GAME IS FRIGGING AWESOME!

    I think I’m going to go buy it now and see which it is…

    1. Sagretti says:

      I’d say 2 and 3 are major failures in design, really. If the game is going to have a situation that starts to wreck the city, there has to be a way to figure out what’s going wrong so you can fix it: polling the public, an advisor mechanic, something. Otherwise, it’s not any different from the game rolling the dice every few hours and deciding “You Lose.”

      Sure, it may be more realistic that you have no clue why everything is crashing down, but that doesn’t mean it’s any fun to play. I don’t play an rpg to have my character randomly die of a heart attack 3 hours in to the game. As well, I don’t play a city building game to have my city perish because of random problems I can’t solve.

      1. Kale says:

        It’s not even completely realistic to assume you won’t know what’s causing everything to fail. In a real city, the news would be reporting on things like increased crime rates and panicky office personnel/investors. You’re, I guess, the highest planning authority for this entire city, overseeing almost everything. As the ruler of what’s basically a city-state, not having a line on the happenings in town or a way to investigate disturbances isn’t simulation-like at all. I admit I don’t know about programming these types of cause/effect simulators, but it seems like you could pop in a news feed for that stuff, or an investigation option.

        1. Hitch says:

          What would be realistic (and possibly fun to play for a certain type of person), is if things just randomly went wrong and news reporters, advisers, and consultants all started offering (contradictory) explanations for what’s wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. You have to decide who you listen to and trust that even if things are getting worse in the short run that it will turn around if you follow their advice. Then when you fail, at least it seems like you might have had a chance if you’d tried a different approach.

          1. Jarenth says:

            Regardless of whether any of these proposed explanations are true, there’s still the fact that the game autosaves, which means that if you get caught in a (possibly emergent, unpredicted) death-spiral, it’s game over forever. This is pretty much an unforgivable sin, as far as I care.

            If testing reveals that the game can spiral out of control and doom the player forever — even if that is an accidental function of the game’s quality and/or complexity — allow the player to save. Otherwise, this happens.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              You’ll get no argument from me, on that point.

              I get the sense that if #2 or #3 are what is happening in the game, there’s a jackass in the development studio who is adamant about not letting players “cheat” by saving whenever they want or having an adjustable difficulty slider.

              I’m not saying there aren’t design faults here, just that there could be some interesting design choices present, enough (for me, at least) to investigate further.

            2. poiumty says:

              Wait, the game has no MANUAL save function?

              I… what. This is like making an FPS and forgetting to implement mouse control.

              1. rofltehcat says:

                hm… I like to play Mount&Blade. I always play it in ‘realism’ mode, where you can’t save manually (well, you can but it won’t help) and the game auto-saves everything you do.
                It is great because it gives you an incentive to think ahead. If you fail, you might lose most of your men, some money and a castle or town and spend a few days in captivity.

                But the game gives you the opportunity to recover from that.

                There is no real way to actually lose.
                You can’t die and even when you are reduced to 0 denare and stripped of your rank and fiefs, you can still recover and pay those bastards back. They can take everything from you except your skills and honor.
                In simulations this isn’t as common. It is hard to imagine a way in which Shamus could have saved his city. If there had been just a crisis and he had lost some of his money on it and maybe some of his offices and factories, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But I guess the only way Shamus could have prevented his city from collapsing would have been by tearing two thirds of it down.

            3. Shamus says:

              To be clear, I CAN make saves. I was in the habit of using the auto-save, and then doing a manual save at the end of a session.

            4. Blanko2 says:

              the game DOES allow you to save whenever you want. if it didnt it would be a bit insane.
              the whole offices thing is very odd. There is a chance that it isnt a bug, the game can be very obtuse about how it handles its information, i have not found any way to view what areas are zoned for high medium and low density of a certain class.
              could just be me, though.

          2. rofltehcat says:

            In Tropico 3 there was a mission like that. You get two economic advisors and have to decide which of the two idiots you trust more.

            Of course it was all scripted into the mission but fun anyways since you could play the mission in several different ways by varying which advisor to trust.

            Also there were some events where one faction wanted/demanded something but other factions were against it. No matter how you do it, someone will be unhappy.

            1. Someone says:

              One old game I love is built around this idea: Hidden Agenda. Basically, you play as the newly-appointed El Presidente of a destitute banana republic (not the all-in-good-fun kind of a banana republic, like Tropico, a depressingly realistic one), the previous ruler of which, a terrible dictator, has managed to run pretty much everything into the ground and piss everyone off enough to get himself overthrown, and you – appointed.

              There is a whole slew of problems, from high infant mortality, to famine, to deathsquads and the threat of a civil war, and solving just a handful of these problems can be considered a huge success.

              The catch of it is: you can’t make your own decisions, you have to pick one of the solutions proposed to you by a large number of advisors and public ministers. And, of course, each of these advisors has their own idea of how things should be handled and, more often than not, a desire to advance their own agenda with little care for the wellbeing of those who don’t fit into it.

              The trick is maneuvering between the wishes of various groups, trying not to piss anyone off too much and, at the same time, actually accomplish something and not just flip-flop for the 3 given years in office.

              It’s actually a very interesting and engaging game, even if it does often seem that actually achieving any positive results is next to impossible.

              1. Shamus says:

                That sounds really cool.

                1. Someone says:

                  I’m pretty sure its abandonware by now, so you can get it off the internet without worrying about robbing the creators.

                  There was also a collective forum let’s play floating around somewhere, where forumites would vote on choosing one of the proposed courses of action. A very interesting read.

                2. ehlijen says:

                  Just to be clear, being abandonware does not automatically make it legal to pirate a game.

                3. Chad says:

                  Not abandoned. A quick google turned up this:

                  edit: Or maybe not. I just looked a the link again and it was last updated in 2002.

                4. Nick says:

                  Irrelevant comment, but I can’t delete, soooo…

                5. Someone says:

                  I wanted to post the link, but my comment must have been caught in the gears of the spamfilter.

                  The copy rights belong to Jim Gasperini, the lead designer. You can shoot him an email and ask for the distributive, as long as you promise to donate to one of the humanitarian organizations working in Central America (the link outlines a few such organizations and links to them, but some of the sites seem to be out of commission). If you can’t reach him, you can download the game from sites like Abandonia and, as long as you remember about the donating part, get away with your conscience untainted.

              2. Abnaxis says:

                I was actually thinking it would be really neat if a game like SimCity or Cities XL had a set of advisors that each had their own, sometimes-transparent, sometimes-for-their-own-benefit agendas.

                Then I take a look at the blog and waddya know…

        2. Abnaxis says:

          I (obviously) haven’t played this game yet. But if it’s anything like SimCity, you have all the requisite spreadsheets and density maps which have more detailed and accurate information than any administrator has in the real world. Heck, from what Shamus says, you have Census levels of information on all inhabitants available to you instantly–whereas here in the US, we only get census data every ten years, and even then it doesn’t cover 100% of the population.

          I mean, look at the big housing market crash in the US. Economic experts still don’t agree on exactly what caused it or who should be held accountable, and it happened a while ago. As these things hit, no matter what position you’re in, you can’t know all of the variables involved or what should immediately be done to fix it.

          The idea of experimenting with different ways to solve social ills in a little simulated environment appeals to me, because it’s neat to try stuff and see what works. Granted (as mentioned befre) this is a TERRIBLE idea in a game that autosaves, but the design idea itself–that you are not clairvoyant enough to know the cause to every problem–appeals to my engineering side.

          1. rofltehcat says:

            What? They don’t agree on what happened?
            US banks got pumped too much cheap money from the central bank, used it to fund loans for people who in turn used the money to build houses. Then the banks sold those loans to other banks and bought comparable loans from other banks. Those loans were also combined with other loans and traded on the stock market.
            Most of those people should have never gotten those loans because they were never able to pay them back in the first place. In addition, people took hypothecary credits on their new homes. People can’t pay their loans, lots of homes flood the real estate market and decrease the worth of all the newly-built homes. People panic, loans are not saturated, more people panic, the loan packets on the stock exchange market are being sold, more people panic, people lose their homes, more people panic, banks are making record losses and ultimatelly, it all happened because the banks got too much cheap money and used it irresponsibly because after all it was cheap and there was a chance to make short-term profit.
            Sad part is that it spread to other countries because the banks of other countries were stupid enough to buy all the loan-packages.

            Pretty nice spiral. I guess those spirals also happen in the game and just as real people act irresponsibly, such things often cannot be stopped in games either. It is still annoying when it happens.

            As for autosave itself… I have no problem with that as long as the game leaves you a chance to recover. If your city’s hightech industry fails, it might be a good moment to switch to agriculture and green technology, for example. This would simulate the ups and downs real economy is subjected to and by giving you the opportunity to change everything, a game in which those mechanics are intentional and not buggy, it might make the game more interesting to play.
            As long as it doesn’t bug out :P

          2. Someone says:

            For solving social ills, check out my above post on Hidden Agenda. The game is all about that, albeit the graphics are black&white and simplistic and it’s a decision-making simulator rather than a building game.

    2. Alexander The 1st says:

      So in short, the game’s not a city builder, it’s a crisis-situation-fixer game.

      It’s having you watch your city tear itself apart like Gotham, while everyone’s trying to ignore it because of BATMAN.

      You’re the mayor of the city, and trying to figure out how it’s going wrong.

      Do want.

      EDIT: Alternatively, Wallstreet.

      1. Patrick the Sandwich Maker says:

        I can’t see how any of the aforementioned is any better than another. Maybe this is another classic example of game design for people who have completely different ideas of what games need to accomplish. My theory is there are 3 basic types:

        1.Games need to entertain.
        2.Games need to challenge.
        3.Games need to teach/instruct.

        To be sure, almost all games have at least 2 of those three, in various amounts. Think of it like a video alchemy. To some, to much entertainment seems to childish. To much challenge is too much work. To much teaching and it seems like school.
        Me? I want to be entertained. The “challenge” of figuring out why the city is self destructing isnt fun, or challenging or educational or anything. Sounds like a piss-poor user interface/tutorial too me.

        Who wants to sink 2 hours into something just to watch it melt, just because i didn’t know about the button at the bottom?

        1. Tizzy says:

          This is a good point, but to muddy up the waters a little more, no one can really agree on what constitutes “entertainment”, “challenge” or “learning”; all those are in the eye of the beholder, it doesn’t help.

      2. Someone says:

        Every problem, especially the kind of a problem described in the post, has a cause and symptoms.

        Judging by the post, it seems that the game failed to provide information on the symptoms rather than the cause. Finding the cause is half the fun, so not giving much insight into it is fine. Not giving the symptoms, however, is not.

    3. Nathon says:

      Maybe it’s because I’m an engineer and I’m trained to think like this, or maybe my being an engineer is an example of selection bias, but a game that says “something’s wrong, guess what it is” is horribly broken in my book. There should be a way to get information to feed reasoned analysis that can lead to a solution to the problem. That way should be very obvious, particularly to someone like Shamus.

      Assuming that your mental model of the problem is correct without any data to back up that assumption is just plain bad. Even with data, it’s hard enough to fix problems. At least if it’s a bug it can be fixed.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Of course, as engineers, we all think we can solve the problem.

        Thing is, have you seen the solutions everyone’s tried to curb the tech bubbles? The sub-prime bubble? The Transit (Lots of people -> Not enough transit) problem? They are usually not a “People need more transit, build more transit” problem. It’s something like “The hours of this place are open past the hours you can legally work the bus drivers, and therefore people are still going to be driving.” problem.

        EDIT: You can still read the data and try to come up with solutions. Shamus tried the economic incentive solution. Wasn’t the problem.

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Of course, as engineers, we all think we can solve the problem.

          But, see, UNsolvable problems make crappy games. Especially in games that are ostensibly skills-/knowledge-based.

          1. decius says:

            Really? Because partially solvable problems are really fun to work on. How about a city simulator where a key factor keeps increasing without limit, a resource sink that will, eventually, destroy the city. Beat it for as long as possible.

            But every event should either be deterministic, have some advance warning, or have some way of the player controlling the odds. (Rebuild, I’m glaring at you)

    4. DougO says:

      The reality is, both #2 and #3 turn the game into “Do it again, stupid” but with a much larger time lost. I think Seamus may have said something before about how much he enjoys that style of play.

    5. Kyte says:

      That’s horrible. You’re playing mayor in a game. #2 and #3 sound like a horrible day at the (mayor’s) office. I’d hate to have my gaming feel like a bad day at work.
      There’s a reason why most simulators try to avoid going all the way with realism.

    6. Pickly says:

      Even if the game is designed around being #2 or #3, and that’s how it will be enjoyed the most, there’s still the issue that Shamus’s city fell apart quite quickly, with no way for him to slow or stop the complete disintegration (See the water deal part of the story). that’s poor design no matter what the game is going for.

      1. Abnaxis says:


        Lemme preface this by saying yes, there ought to be something to do when to fix things when they start going to hell.

        But I wonder if other cities refuse to trade with you when you’re operating at a deficit because they think your city is going to fail, so they go somewhere else for their trade because they can’t depend on you?

        1. Jeff says:

          If my city or company is going to fail, I still don’t see why you wouldn’t sell me stuff if I had five million cash burning a hole in my pocket. No credit maybe, but no sale?

          1. Someone says:

            It’s all about commitment. If they commit to selling their water to a city where all is well, they will have the opportunity to grow. They will keep gaining cash and will gradually build up their water supply, as the client city’s demand rises, resulting in more water for the client and a growing water industry, cash flow and workplaces for them.

            If they commit to your failing city, they may start building up the water supply, but then your bubble will burst, the demand will fail as the enterprises close and the population leaves, and they will be stuck with surplus water they’ve been selling to you, and will have to quickly find another buyer for it or waste it and suffer financial damage.

            1. Jeff says:

              That’s only if they’re committed, though.

              If I pay you a million bucks cash to give me a year’s worth of water, then it doesn’t matter that six months down the line I go bust and you save yourself half a year of water, does it?

              1. Someone says:

                But you don’t provide opportunities for growth! They can’t increase water production cause your demand won’t increase, so, assuming they charge the same rate to someone who’s city isn’t going down the drain, they will end up growing more and earning themselves more cash, as their client grows and buys more water.

                Investing water into your city won’t bring them any growth, it’s just a one-time cash influx which they can probably get elsewhere WITH the growth benefits, and without the inconvenience of building infrastructure and trade relations that will be rendered meaningless in less than a year, or figuring out how long you will last and when they should switch to another client.

                1. Pickly says:

                  The same would apply to cities which had simply stopped growing, without any other issues occuring, though. It would be a bit longer than a one time cash influx, but would not provide any growth opportunities.

                  In Shamus’s case, he also had a deal cancelled that he’d already agreed to for some time, which makes the calcelation even more strange.

                  As well, it isn’t common (as far as i know) for deals like this to be completely avoided even if a region starts to fall apart, usually they can get some sort of agreement at some point.

                  And, to keep this point on people’s minds, this is a game we are talking about, which isn’t much fun to play if everyone abandons you the instant a small thing starts to go wrong.

  11. kikito says:

    Scout your fields carefully. If you see a group of office workers giving a beating to a printer with golf clubs, then it is already too late.

    Otherwise, increase the production of red staplers to 300%. That should keep incendiary crazies happy and your offices will not burn.

    1. Patrick the Sandwich Maker says:

      Dude…you just made my Monday.

      ” Everything was fine until that assclown started winning grammies….”

      1. Spider Dave says:

        Did you have a case of the Mondays?

    2. Mari says:

      Is it wrong that I randomly wander around the house mumbling “I’m going to burn the building down” to nobody in particular?

      1. Patrick the Supply Manager says:

        Only if no one took your stapler.

        Or if you know what PC LOAD LETTER actually means. If this is true, please burn down your surroundings, and may god have mercy upon your soul.

        1. Mari says:

          I had an old LaserJet II. I’m all too familiar with PC LOAD LETTER.

        2. Kevin says:

          Paper check; load more letter size paper

          1. Patrick the Short order Cook says:

            You guys really need to get out more. Or destroy an outdated copier once in awhile. seriously…seek therapy.

      2. Spider Dave says:

        It’s not wrong. When I feel like that I usually go back to my apartment and watch Kung Fu. Do you ever watch Kung Fu?

  12. SolkaTruesilver says:

    So, the main problem is that you couldn’t put the finger on what was wrong with the office, right?

    While it’s a clear weakness in the game design, don’t you think it might have been some sort of 2008-crisis re-enactment of a liquidity crisis where office work dries up? :-)

    So you had a city entirely focused and specialised in High-Tech… and because of lack of office work, you bankrupted…

    hmmm.. now you know how Ireland felt. ;)

    1. Nathon says:

      If that were true, it wouldn’t have said that demand for offices was through the roof.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:

        Just because you have a demand doesn’t mean the investors have the liquidity capacity to fund them, or the office have the operational capacity to take these customers.

        Which is practically what happened during the crisis. It’s not that there weren’t customers for a lot of stuff that could be bought, it’s that no one could afford to spend money to make the business magic happen.

        edit: Gawd… I am a financial geek. How could have a Trekkie fallen so bad?! I did everything I could to uphold these ideals of post-materialism!

        Even buy their entire DVD collections for over 1600$!

        1. guy says:

          Except… everyone knew that was the problem and that the underlying cause was that a bunch of banks collapsed due to bad investments and the survivors got real gun-shy about giving new loans. People disagree about why that happened and especially how to fix it, but it was well-understood that it was the problem.

          It sounds like the problem is that Shamus inadvertently knocked out a key pillar of the system.

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            I know what the original problem was, the Sub-prime mortgages infested the financial system. But the consequence of that blowing up was a liquidity crisis, where banks and companies had technically the financial assets to cover their loans, but no one would be willing to lend them the money short-term or accept to buy their assets to provide them with the needed liquidity.

            If companies had no capacity to cover their loans, they certainly wouldn’t had the interest to fund new office buildings.

            It certainly was a weird bug in Shamus’ case, but he certainly got hit just as hard as Ireland in his game, for reasons that were just as out of his control.

            I was wondering if he ever hoped to have his economical system to eventually mature, or he was dependant on the constant growth of his assets and city to make ends meet? If it was the latter, no surprise he ended up like Dubai.

        2. Hitch says:

          If that was the case, wouldn’t the better message have been, “You don’t have sufficient investment capital to support new offices.” rather than, “Something is wrong with the offices?” The you could struggle with how to correct the problem rather than just watching your city die while muttering, “What? Tell me what is wrong.” at the screen.

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            Agreed 100%. I was making a joke. It’s probably a bug, or just a poorly thought-out design that killed Shamus’s game.

            But HE isn’t the one needing the capital to build. The private sector did. He was only there to zoneup and allow permits. If the private sector can’t come up with the liquid capital to finance building stuff, there is little you can do except making the project more attractive.

            (Although Quebec City thinks the government should finance these big buildings almost 80%, grrrr)

  13. Allan says:

    Reminds me vaguely of my experience with Dragon Age 2.

    Had loads of fun in the first act, hit the act two quest bugs and wouldn’t continue until a patch. A month later stewing in the vitriol of the official forums waiting for it I’ve come to realise how very shallow* DA2 is compared to DAO. I don’t know if I’ll be able to recapture that initial joy when the patch finally arrives. Once the initial illusion or immersion is broken, all the flaws worm their way into view.

    *They even included jiggle physics. I know spending time on one “feature” doesn’t nessecarily mean others have to suffer, but did they really need to use up development time making FemHawke’s Boobs sway if you take all her clothes off and run towards the camera? Couldn’t they have used that time making the city change slightly in the multi-year gaps between acts?

    1. Keeshhound says:

      How… How did you discover this? Were you really so bored that you did THAT?

      1. Allan says:

        I am a male in my early twenties and I have not only been given control of a female character with a body of mathematically designed perfection, I am given control of WHAT SHE WEARS. That I would discover this is not a matter of inclination, merely of time.

        Also, if you browse the official forums occaisionally you will see someone mention it eventually.

        1. silver says:

          Mathematically designed perfection? Bah. Everyone has different tastes, so there’s no such thing as a perfect female form.

        2. Din Adn? says:

          I am also a male in my early twenties, as is the last person I was in a relationship with.

          I would argue that it’s at least somewhat a matter of inclination :P

          EDIT: Augh, curse these links to old posts engaging me so thoroughly.

  14. dyrnwyn says:

    This is why I dislike autosave. It seems great at first but if you make a single mistake (or the game is stupid) your screwed forever. I like Minecraft’s approach, the only way to get to the main menu is to save and quit, but it turns out that’s misleading. Minecraft will save your game even if you just close the window. This has bothered me on several occasions.

    1. GiantRaven says:

      This gets me every time I fall in lava and try to quit the game without saving it. >:-(

      So much sugar cane lost…

  15. Nathon says:

    old fields -> oil fields?

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks. Fixed.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Fields of old people?

      1. Irridium says:

        Far as the eye can see!

        1. Milos says:

          You must harvest them before they expire!

          1. MintSkittle says:

            And then liquefy them to be fed intravenously to the young?

            1. rofltehcat says:

              Soilent Green is people!

              from the lush fields of Cities XL.

              1. Mari says:

                I love you. That is all.

              2. Patrick the Green tongued Cannibal says:

                MMMmmm…. people

            2. Volatar says:

              Wasn’t that an episode of the X-Files or something?

              1. MintSkittle says:

                I was going for Matrix, but I guess other stories are allowed to make use of human resources.

  16. evileeyore says:

    Sounds like it fairly accurately simulated real life.

    Kudos Hasbro.

    1. Crystalgate says:

      Maybe, but in real life, people who runs a city employs various methods to find out what’s wrong. If you find a problem that can seriously damage the economy of the city, you will quickly devote resources towards finding out what’s wrong.

      If you simulate a real life problem, you should also simulate the real life solutions as well. Failing that, give the game a simpler solution, like an advisor who more accurately than in real life tells you what’s wrong.

      Maybe there are solutions in the game that Shamus is unaware of, but chance is there really isn’t any way to access the needed information.

      1. Pickly says:

        Plus in real life your water contracts don’t instantly cancel, and things don’t usually fall that far apart as instantly as Shamus’s city seemed to do. For people tempted to give current examples: I know large economic/planning disasters do happen quite quickly, but things don’t go as completely non-functional as Shamus’s city seemed to do.)

  17. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Sounds like a bug.

    Have you tried telling the people who make the game about this bug?

    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s 2011, we can tell the people who make these games that something is broke, talk directly to them and tell them what the problem is and how you encountered it, and they can actually fix it, given enough time.

    This is especially true for a simulation game like this; SimCity is simple because simple is easier to make, easier to fake, and easier to fix, but in a game like Cities XL 2011 (wow, that IS a silly name), where complexity is upped by a significant degree, then it’s obvious that no amount of bug testing will find everything, and no, your design is not perfect and doesn’t cover all situations, but you’ve got to release the game sometime.

    So, yeah, basically I’m saying, send this story in to Focus Home Interactive, and try the game again after it’s next patch.

    You shouldn’t let one (fixable) bug destroy your fun with a game you’ve been enjoying. (that’s admitting defeat to the bug, and you can’t do that, that’s like admitting defeat to DRM)

    1. wtrmute says:

      This is doubly true since Shamus is now a “Gaming Journalist”; if he’s big enough to get actual copies of games for review, he should be big enough to get a response from an email inquiry to their PR department.

    2. Matt K says:

      Although from my understanding, for their previous game the fix was buy City XL 2011 at full price if your having issues. So I wouldn’t hold my breath for this team to fix the game.

    3. Zukhramm says:

      It’s not always possible not to let a bug get in the way, even after it’s fixed. Once your mood for a game is broken it ca be hard to pick back up.

  18. guy says:

    Simcity is actually more complex under the hood than you might think, with three industry types in 3000: Clean, Dirty, and Farming. You can’t directly control them, clean industry is based off Education Quotient and the year.

    1. Someone says:

      Having played a ton of CS4, I have to agree. I imagine Shamus hadn’t played much of 4, or didn’t discover some of the underlying mechanics. CS4 has the same class system he describes as new in CXL. I can even list all of the classes: Poor, middle-class and rich for residential; low-income, medium-income and botique retail, as well as medium and rich offices for commerical; agriculture, dirty, manufacturing and high-tech for industry.

      The only difference is that you have to create the environment desirable by a specific class, in order to attract buildings of that class, which I find much more interesting than the streamlined and straightforward approach of “here’s a button for low-class, middle-class and elite residential” which seems to be used in Cities XL.

      After all, half the challenge of Sim City was in keeping the poor unwashed masses from clogging up your high-schools or stinking up the parks and alleys of your designated rich districts, or stopping Mom&Pop’s Gas Stop shops from using the highway intended for the downtown office zone, or keeping the dirty industry out of your clean and green Hi-Tech production zones.

      So yeah, what I’m saying is that there isn’t much new in Cities XL, all of the described has been done in Sim City.

      Except the curving roads, but those are more of a testament to technology marching forward than the genius of game designers.

  19. Dev Null says:

    Moral of the story: never play a game til its at least a year old, and the most pungent of the bugs have been smoked out. You know that one Shamus!

    And the games industry wonders why we don’t go mad for their new releases…

    1. Veloxyll says:

      Or the game gets abandoned due to poor sales and the bugs never get fixed *cough* Starfleet Command 3 *cough*

      1. Dev Null says:

        Which is of course a problem. But since its a problem that wouldn’t exist if they’d stop releasing games full of egregious immersion-smashing bugs, I somehow fail to feel terribly sorry for them…

  20. Patrick the Surreal Narcacist says:

    If we’re going for “real-life” then it should also contain:

    1.Every x+1<20 years a trusted city councilman should be caught embezelling, player loses all money in the bank.
    2.Transit worker strike X+1<5 years.
    3.X+25<40 years property values should change +/-.2 and then correct x+1<10 years later.
    4.City should be broke every year. Any surplus needs diverted to most recent and relevant lawsuit against city worker, most probably a policeman. Believe me, lawyers KNOW how much a city treasury has.
    5.Any buisnesses under X+1.1% total assests needs to fail within 5 years within notice or cause, regardless of size.
    6.Once every 20 years the counties largest employer needs to leave for Mexico or Canada.
    7.Player's game should be randomly ended at any time due to unforseen and unpreventable scandal by one of his top advisors that forces him out of office.

    I'm not sure why 'realism' is something that we all treasure in some games. Reality is what we try to get away from when we play…. isn't it? I understand that some reality has to be built in to make it something of value, but when do we cross that line? Isn't randomly ending someone's game without cause or reason past that point?

    1. Jarenth says:

      Don’t forget:

      8: Player’s approval rating has nothing at all to do with the economic value of the city, but is instead determined by successes of local sports teams and/or the proximity of national holidays.

      1. Irridium says:


        9: Try to change anything, and have the populous go insane thinking your “destroying the moral fabric or the city” or something silly like that.

        1. Patrick the Surreal Narcacist says:

          nah even better….Every time you build a special monument, structure or schedule a unique event your screen would fill with 30 pop-ups from groups demanding that they have there own event, structure or monument. Every time you close one pop up… you would get two more popups from lawyers suing you for ignoring their clients requests when you closed their popups! Want to build a WWII memorial? Better be prepared to build one for every war ever built!Want to have an Irish Pride parade? Better clear your schedule to attend the Gay Black Korean Masons Parade!

          1. Jarenth says:

            Of course, if you accept these requests, you will get hammered with protests from groups who claim these groups are destroying the sancity of marriage. All of them, no matter the subject.

            These popups will have annoying high-pitched sound effects that cannot be turned off, and they can only be removed by accepting them or by waiting twenty in-game weeks.

            1. Veloxyll says:

              It’d still be an improvement providing error messages are better than “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOUR OFFICES” and its ilk.
              In video games there should always be something you can (try) and do to fix problems. Even if it’s collapse the caves to lock the demons (and a third of your dwarves) in the lower mines.

        2. Jekyll says:

          10: Have tabloids randomly question your birthplace while your ability to do anything is locked up because your congress cannot get along.

          1. Someone says:

            Once again, I have to direct everyone to Hidden Agenda, which I described somewhere above. It has almost all of the mentioned fun features, but instead of a “civilized” country with lawsuits and strikes you get a third-world hole with guerrilla movements, lynch mobs illegally seizing lands and CIA incursions.

  21. Earththing says:

    I had the same problem with Cities XL (without on-line play) and Cities XL 2011. I love the look of the game, but after several hours of work “something” go wrong and it all goes down hill from there. I believe is was with the offices each time. I have pretty much given up on the game.

  22. BaCoN says:

    SimCopter will always be the ultimate Sim game!

    1. Patrick the Short order Cook says:

      Kevin? Is that you?

      I found a cologne for you….

      1. Zukhramm says:

        Took me a while to realize cologne is not something you drink. I don’t know if that would be worse or better though.

        1. Someone says:

          Y’know… in some countries…

          1. BaCoN says:

            I… I… I WANT THIS.

            I NEED THIS.

            I’ve had the bacon flavoured vodka. I’ve seen(and touched) a bacon tuxedo, which is not a good idea, might I add. I’ve had bacon mayonnaise(baconnaise!!).

            BUT THIS.

            I NEED THIS.

  23. Kyte says:

    You seemed to skip a good bit of complexity from Sim City, especially from SC4.
    For starters, industry has always been separated into Polluting and Clean/High-Tech, with 4 splitting the former into Manufacture and Dirty and adding Farms. And all zones have wealth levels, even if you aren’t in direct control of them (that’s what Desirability and Demand are for. And also why you get maps of said stats)
    I, for one, never make symmetrical cities and they still work fine. Plus, plopping the services on every block like that sounds like a recipe for fiscal deficit.
    Also: SC4 tracked every job for every house. Using the route query tool in Deluxe/Rush Hour, you could even see the paths people took between both (which might be different depending on direction!).
    Rush Hour / Deluxe also added a whole wealth of transportation options, and mixing Industrial with Residential is a really bad idea given pollution’s effect on desirability. Gridlock’s usually solved by mass transit.
    (I will grant you, however, that the vanilla SC4 traffic sim is horribly punishing and everyone should download the Network Addon Mod)

    1. Jeff says:

      I think Shamus’ diagram is from the SC2000 “functional grid” thingy, for a city that covered the entirety of the map. The “largest city possible” somebody worked up, I believe.

      1. Someone says:

        It really depends on the goal you set for yourself. Sure, you can pretty easily cover the whole map with residential buildings and dirty industry, while offering barely any services, but you’d end up with a depressing crime-ridden slum full of dirty, overcrowded high-rise housing projects and pollution spewing smoke stacks.

        Building a good, balanced, clean city with high education levels, low pollution and no dirty industry – now that’s a much more complex challenge.

  24. Falcon_47 says:

    It’s like you read my mind Shamus, i was actually thinking of playing a new city sim after not touching my simcity 3000 for god knows how long, but in this post I still fail to understand if you think CXL is a good game to buy or not? Consider for a moment that I like the simcity type of games but find the grid system completely awful and would like a lot more freedom in my city building: Simcity 4 or CXL? Are the bugs that much of a game breaker? Anyone???

    1. Shamus says:

      I loved me the organic building. I think it’s worth a look, but not at full price. When it hits the bargain bin, give it a look.

      1. Falcon_47 says:

        K thx, I actually only went to steam just now to check the price, and well: cities 2011 39€, simcity 4 deluxe 9€, so yeah, I’ll probably try simcity 4 for a while and then when CXL gest cheaper I’ll give it a look as well. In the end it’s all about the money, right…

  25. Zak McKracken says:

    You sure you didn’t start a speculation bubble with all that hightech growth? :)

    Well, if the game insists that something is wrong and if thart’s supposed to be realistic, the player should at least be able to ask the people who are moving out of the offices why they’re doing it. Maybe they were the wrong type of office? :)

    My bet is on someone having implemented some sort of rule in the simulation that at some size threshold there are problems, because they couldn’t think of a real actual mechanic that would limit the size of a business sector. Like … not enough people in town who are qualified for the type of work in question, or something. Not done well.

  26. guy says:

    Part of the reason the grid effect in SC2000 is so strong is that a tile more than 3 tiles from the nearest road doesn’t get developed, so a 7×8 or whatever block has wasted interior space. The later versions still have “optimal” grids, but they’re much larger and more likely to be disrupted by terrain.

    I tend to have my city consist mainly of large, homogeneous districts, mainly because of the severe negative effects from pollution in the industrial district.

  27. Someone says:

    Seems like Cities XL is just a simplified, streamlined re-thread of Sim City, and a buggy one at that.

    A real shame, it’s about time someone made a city-building game worthy of dethroning SC4.

    1. K says:


      1. Someone says:

        Is it not? As I already said somewhere above, the whole system of different residential income classes, different shops and offices and different industries, is not new and it has already been in Sim City 4, in a more organic form.

        CXL is probably more complex than Sim City 2000, or even 3000, but SC4 still takes the cake in that regard.

        1. Kyte says:

          My ideal game would have SC4’s mechanics (as corrected with NAM) and Cities XL’s aesthetics. I have to admit those screenshots are simply beautiful.

  28. Rockbird says:

    Hm, pollution maybe? What with all the different kinds there’s bound to be something that gives you trouble, the global stuff if nothing else…

  29. Ben says:

    You should check out Caesar IV if you haven’t already. As far as City-builders go, I’ve always loved the Caesar series way more than SimCity; it has way more depth to it, which it sounds like why you liked this game.

    1. Jeff says:

      Once thing I’ve always wondered, do you actually end up building armies or something?

  30. thebigJ_A says:


    Here in Boston, they’re called “rotaries”.

    And they’re the only sensible part of our road network.

  31. (LK) says:

    I just realized there won’t ever be another good Sim City game… since Will Wright left EA altogether. Sad! :(

  32. Argonnosi says:

    Well, geez! If you’re this upset about a game who’s underlying assumptions don’t necessarily make sense, what about a real-life system where the underlying assumptions don’t make sense. You know, like how the value of the U.S. currency is based on the value of U.S. Federal Bonds. ‘Cause that makes a whole lot of sense.

    Sorry, just throwing that out there, ’cause what you saw in CXL may soon happen here. Plenty of demand, but no way to do it ’cause there’s “something wrong” with offices. Or, something like that.

  33. Lacrossla says:

    Took me a month but I did get 11,000,000+ people to move into a city. You want to blame it on a bug, thats fine. But its not a bug. In order to grow a city, you need to have other cities growing around it. You think New York just popped up out of know where…No it was demand that created Jobs and balanced economics. Omni Corp is there to help in the short run, but in the end you should never be trading with Omni, you should only be trading with other cities you have made.

    and,…the post by Abnaxis is correct. The Simulation is to complex for it to simply tell you the reason your offices are failing, you have to use all your data and all your research tools and ontop of that, have a big enough brain to compile it all to solve some of the issues. This is not some easy Simulator. Its as close to the real deal as they have gotten thus far. If you need help. Email me. but dont tell others the game is flawed when its really your personal issues getting in the way.

    1. Shamus says:

      “The Simulation is to complex”

      I’m a programmer. Simulations are not magic boxes. There is a reason for everything that happens.

      This is nonsense behavior. It’s a bug or bad design. Plain and simple.

    2. Kyte says:

      A simulation, by definition, keeps track of every single variable within itself. Even if chaotic systems emerge, the numbers are still there. They’ll move unpredictably, but they’ll still be 100% known. A game can easily pick up “danger” parameters and present a warning to the player. It’s easy. It’s common. And most importantly, it’s been done. Look at Dwarf Fortress, the moody-dwarf life/suicide simulator. Ridiculously chaotic systems, but you always get a notification when a dwarf gets too angry and starts throwing a tantrum.

      PD: You could work on your writing, dude.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        It usually doesn’t tell you why the dwarf is throwing the tantrum. It just pauses and says “Dwarfy McUrist is throwing a tantrum!” which is about the same level of detail as “There’s something wrong with the offices!” A major reason the learning curve in DF is practically vertical is because figuring out WTF is wrong when dwarves all start committing mass suicide usually requires one to run to the wiki.

        Nevertheless, I’ve played CitiesXL now, and it’s not nearly that complex of a simulator, anyway. Decent amount of detail, but DF it ain’t.

        It does say why a business fails when it goes bankrupt–a little icon appears over the building, and if you click it gives the reason for failure. These could be anything from “hotels are too expensive” to “the owner won the lottery and quit.” Was this feature not working for you, Shamus?

        1. Shamus says:

          It was, but the message was meaningless. I forget what, now. Something like “Lack of success” or something like that. It’s been a few weeks, so I can’t remember the wording.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Huh. I’ve not gotten really far just yet, but every once in a while I notice some of my offices aren’t making enough profit, but it doesn’t say why. I always figured it’s because there’s a bunch of stuff they take as ‘input’ (quality of life, transportation services, etc.) in the yellow, but nothing critically in the red. So nothing to pin it on and say “This is your problem” (and even if it did, those inputs have entire tutorials dedicated to teaching you how to properly manage them), just enough general mediocrity to make business hard. I always figured if it got bad enough to cause mass exodus they would give a bit more info though.

            Offices are weird. I think the real problem is that they depend on a lot more fuzzy stuff like resident satifaction and traffic and less on commodities like fuel and heavy industry. It’s no excuse really, but maybe that makes it harder to give advice on what to do–it would basically amount to “do a better job than you’re doing now.”

  34. webster0105 says:

    All you do when it says “something wrong with offices” is click on one of the offices that’s having a problem (indicated by an icon indicating either A)it’s losing money, or B) went bankrupt, and it will explain to you. You probably were in need of more waste or electricity. Who knows…maybe the pollution was cutting off productivity. Offices can’t perform well if the pollution is bad.

  35. Drewster says:

    Just like everyone I had the same problem. Luckily, I figured out to fix the problem. Your offices were in the middle of the city towards the middle of the landscape right? Well your problem is simple: not enough PASSENGERS. Look in the transportation screen on the right side of the screen and select passengers. I’m sure you’ll notice there’s hardly any green on the streets by your offices. The simple solution is to build an AIRPORT (same as in Sim City) and problem solved.

  36. steve-o says:

    cities xl 2011 is amazing for the first comment pollution was making ur officw workers unhappy and not willing to work in your city there really isnt anything wrong at all and blows sim city out the water have 2 cities over 4 million population and cant spend money fast enough just be weary of trading as it has toppled many of my metropolises

  37. Mario says:

    Thats a nice review. See, i have the same problem. the problem that you mentioned is that you have too many retails in one city! you should check the resource panel on the upper right of the screen. you should delete some commerce or expand the city to meet its commerce need

  38. Jordan says:

    To fix the ‘ Theres something wrong with the offices’
    Just simply build more commerce and get rid of pollution.
    You’ll be set bro ;)

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