Thursday, April 9, 2015

City Building Games Can Help Illuminate Planning Issues

For those who are fans of the SimCity games, there’s a new game that’s taken the city building genre by storm. Cities: Skylines, by the Finnish game development company Colossal Order, was released last month, and it’s quickly become one of the top city building games. While there’s nothing in particular that’s is completely new or innovative about the game, it is rigorous in modelling all the traditional parts of city building simulations, a welcome change as the SimCity franchise has moved its focus towards the social engineering aspect of the game instead of the actual city building simulation.

Similar to SimCity, the player acts as mayor and builds a city by zoning land, building infrastructure, and developing public spaces like parks and schools. However, one of the biggest differences between Cities: Skylines and SimCity is that Cities: Skylines is far more robust in its modelling of transit. The game’s developers also built the transit simulation game Cities In Motion, and as a result, this game’s spectrum of transit options is much fuller: you’re able to draw bus and rail lines on top of just designating bus stops, as well as set overall service levels.

On top of being an entertaining game to play, Cities: Skylines can also be a fun way to understand urban and transportation issues. One of the greatest criticisms of the SimCity games was that it was a good game for building sprawled cities, but the lack of transit options made it impossible to model denser cities that rely on public transit. This game allows for the simulation of many more city archetypes. As you develop these cities, different issues may arise: traffic congestion, pollution, and most importantly, you’re able to see how your city’s budget holds up and its cost efficiency per citizen.

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