Like many Simcity fans, I was underwhelmed by the new one, which inspired me to dust-off Simcity 4 and play that again. It has been fun. So much fun, that I wanted to share it here with fellow TL players who might be looking to play Simcity 4 (SC4) again, or for the first time.
I am no expert in Simcity, I am not claiming that this is the best, fastest, or most efficient way to play. This is demonstration of one way to play SC4, which I hope will be useful to some people. I'll be playing rather deliberately, simply, and slowly. Simcity has a lot of features, I'll only use a few of them.
Get Simcity 4 Deluxe, install the NAM version 30 mod (optional).
NAM version 30, found here is a traffic mod which will make the traffic simulation for SC4 much more realistic. I used the "high capacity" option for this playthrough. It isn't necessary to have a good time, but your ultimate city size will be capped at a lower limit without it. For part 1 of this tutorial, it won't be necessary.
This is at medium difficulty.
This is the overall plan. We'll start in the top right, create a starter city with a balanced mix of residential, commercial, and industrial, and just work our way, down the numbers, to eventually build a mega-city, with residential zones feeding into it, and a industrial zone by the bay. The red lines are the highway network. The plan is subject to change, but this is gives you an idea of the scale you need to be thinking on to get the simcity 4 experience. If you feel like going back to downloading NAM now, I highly encourage it.
Here's our starting bit of land. Since our future industrial zone will be to the southwest of here, for continuity's sake we will put our industrial zone in that corner. With hills and the coast boxing us in, we'll have a main north-south axis. Pause to start building.
This is the overall plan. There are two main blobs, polluting and non-polluting. I've got low-density residential along streets, with medium- and low-density commercial lining the main avenue and roads. The industry currently consists only of agriculture. The coal powerplant and landfill is tucked in the corner. The water pumps are far to the north, drawing pristine water from the forests.
Detail on the residential/commercial zone. Notice that the residential housing faces the street, not roads. Housing value is decreased by traffic, and no one wants their front door to open to a highway. The roads funnel traffic to the main avenue, which can handle much more traffic. Commercial likes traffic, so we put commercial zones along the sides of the avenue, and in a buffer zone between the residential and the industrial. We've also placed an elementary school to get those sims educated right away. Let's start the game.
As the sims move in, they will start demanding things, such as fire, police, health services. Add them as they ask for it. Never build more than you need. You will be losing money each month, don't worry about it. The farms should pop up pretty quickly. Now that things are underway, hit dirty industry with 20% taxes, the maximum. To do this, click on the budget, then click on the taxes to open a pop-up. This will insure that dirty industry will never come, as shown by the negative demand for I-D. Wait for I-M (Industry-Manufacturing) to show positive demand. Now that it has, we can start to put down industry.
Re-zone some of your farms as medium-density industry. Manufacturing should start to pop up, which will really help your economy.
We're making money now. The city still has plenty empty space, so we need to do something to get more people here. Let's zone some more industry. Time to evict some farmers.
With more industry, we need ways for them to ship their goods. Create a rail connection to SimNation (the region map), by dragging a railroad line to the edge. Build a freight terminal to start shipping freight.
Goods are starting to move, which will give you a nice boost to the economy. As you build-out more zones, the interplay between zones will make a huge difference in your economy.
Things are really starting to come along, we've got a healthy demand for residential, now that there are industrial jobs available. Start re-zoning a few areas with medium or high density as you prefer, and upgrading streets to roads as needed. Also add emergency services as needed. You should be getting goodies like mayor's house, statues, and houses of worship, which you can use to boost the desirability of certain areas. Don't forget water and power.
Our first major wave of expansion sees a east-west avenue, and continued build-out along the periphery. We've added a high-school, a major hospital, and some other amenities. We're beginning to see the first hints of high-tech industrial demand.
You also see one of the cosmetic benefits of NAM, which gives us a nice roundabout at the intersection of the avenues.
Continued buildout. We put down a small airport, which greatly boosted commercial demand, and put in a university and a golf course, as well as an advanced research facility.
The downtown commercial district. We're making good money, and there is massive demand for more commerce. This is a good thing - the demand boosts land value, which pushes up those skyscrapers. We're making good money, our mayor rating is high, and we're approaching 40k sims.
General game advice:
+ Don't worry about having a "master plan" with everything straight and nice, at least in the beginning. That can wait for later.
+ Just try stuff out - it's a game, you're a beginner, getting a feel for the game engine is more important than avoiding mistakes.
+ In general, use a light touch. Don't do too much too quickly. Add some zoned land, wait for the game to respond, then decide what to do next.
+ Before you do something major, build up a cash reserve. For example, putting down your first airport is a big budget-buster, and it may take a few years before it begins to pay for itself in increased commercial activity. Make sure you have enough buffer to survive the years in-between.
+ Save often. While I have played SC4 continuously on 64-bit Win7 for hours, it does crash without warning.
General starting tips:
+ Build landfills and a coal-power plant in a far corner. There are cleaner options, but coal is cheap, and money will be tight.
+ Build your water pumps in a different corner, wherever your residential zones will be.
+ Your first city will have two main blobs - polluting and non-polluting. Residential/commercial will be in one blob, industry in the other.
+ Don't build roads or avenues if you don't need them. Streets are perfectly good for low-density. You can always upgrade to roads later. Don't be shy about building streets, as they are cheap and provide "reserve upgrade capacity" for later.
+ Don't build more fire, police, health, water, power, and garbage services than you need. You can skip police kiosk, but generally speaking, work your way up the various city-service builds as needed. Remember that most buildings have sliders so you can reduce the cost.
+ Zone low- and medium- density for now. You can always upgrade to high-density later.
+ Cash flow is precious, cash is cheap. The true cost of any item is the monthly cost. The initial cost is basically irrelevant.
+ Residential demand requires jobs from commercial and industrial zones. Commercial zones need customers from residential zones to create jobs. Industry is the "jumpstarter" to get the residential-commercial demand cycle going.
+ There are four types of industry. Agriculture, dirty, manufacturing, and high-tech. There are basically three strategies for jump-starting your economy. The two easier ways are to use agriculture or dirty industry, which require no education. Agriculture consumes a lot of land but doesn't pollute, giving you the option of re-zoning that land for something else later. Dirty industry produces too much pollution, and nothing else will grow there. Once dirty, always dirty. The harder way is to shoot straight for manufacturing. This will require you to educate your sims first, meaning building a elementary school as part of your initial build-out, and raising taxes on dirty industry to max to choke them out.
+ Education and commercial demand are the two keys to "advancing" in the game. By "advancing", I mean getting to tall skyscrapers. So whenever your budget can afford it, build the next thing in education or commercial demand.
You should have a good feel of what Sim4 is after building your first successful city. Then start playing it the way it was intended...as a massive metropolitan area simulator. Build up one area as a suburb, one area as a industrial zone, one area as a city center, and connect it all with highways and train lines. NAM will help with this.
Link to Part 2