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SimCity 2013 Hints & Tips

Over the course of several lengthy play sessions, Azraells and I have come to the conclusion that being a better mayor comes solely with experience; well…experience and screwing up, that is.

You don’t need to make the same mistakes though.  Just learn from ours!

Be sure to check out some of our gameplay over at Twitch.TV!

Pre-Planning is Important
On the bottom right of the game window is an icon for your Map Layers.  Use them before you start a city!  Check the direction of the wind to know where Industry should go!  Know where your resources are and plan accordingly!  Maybe you think you don’t need those resources… you’re wrong!  You do.  Try to power your city using only wind and solar?  Not going to happen.  Coal!  Oil!  Rip it out of the ground to power your city is by far the most cost effective method, versus buying coal or oil from the Global Market at inflated prices…

Pre-Planning is STILL Important
Those roads you want to place – how much traffic do you think it will get?  Is it a main road, by chance?  Avenue then!  Roads upgrade to higher density Roads, but cannot upgrade to Avenues.  Avenues are wider than roads.  Start with the Medium Density Avenue for your main road and upgrade it later if it’s going to receive the most traffic.

Helping with Traffic Jams
Intersections are pure evil.  They stop your traffic and cause jams beyond belief.  If you have a main road that makes a turn, don’t do it with an intersection!  The traffic logically moves to the far left or right lane if they want to turn, so you’ll have a single lane of your avenue full with the other lanes entirely empty (Unless the other directions are also major directions).  Try using curved roads whenever possible and have intersections bleed off only to non-major Roads.  This causes the traffic to use all three lanes as it navigates the main Avenue until it finds the intersection it wants to get off at.

Speaking of Traffic Jams
They will happen and there’s not many ways to get around it (I’m looking at you, Metro stations not existing…!).  So what to do?  Busses are a great start as it will reduce the number of cars on the road, but ultimately, it won’t eliminate the problem – just reduce it.  Streetcars are extremely efficient as they navigate the centre of the road unhindered by your traffic except at intersections (Remember how I said they are pure evil?  Here’s another reason why!).  This will help people quickly get from A to B, and those on the road will be cursing up a storm wishing they used your mass transit system.

But the Busses?
Yes, the Bus system is useful; but as I said, “a great start.”  Eventually it becomes impractical.  If you are going to use it, put some Park & Ride’s at the entrance to your city by the highway.  Some of your tourists/workers from other cities will stop here and use the bus system instead!  Also bus stops on Avenues are terrible; your busses must stop to pick up the Sims causing traffic behind it to come to a halt.  At all costs, put your bus stops on side roads only – away from your high traffic avenues, but close enough to still cover the zones you need.  Long term, though, Busses are NOT a viable option.  They reduce traffic but also contribute to it.  When your city gets large enough, save some cash and eliminate Busses and go full streetcar if you think it’s an appropriate action.

This isn't the SimCity you’re used to…!
Unlike prior iterations of SimCity, traffic plays a significant role in your city’s infrastructure.  Your Sims or visiting Sims need to get from A to B then back from B to A to actually accomplish anything.  If your Sim leaves for work and returns quickly, they can shop sooner and ultimately contribute to your bottom line.  If your Sim gets stuck in a traffic jam it will take significantly longer for that Sim to contribute to your city revenue!  In fact, if it happens enough times, houses may become abandoned due to “Out of Money,” stores will abandon due to “No Shoppers,” and with no stores, factories will abandon due to “Nowhere to ship our goods.”  It’s a giant chain of cooperation from the highest to the lowest level.

Services are just like your Sims
As mentioned above, a Sim must get from A to B to accomplish its task.  Guess what?  Your emergency services need to be able to do the same thing!  This time around, you don’t need to spam Fire Hall’s all over the city to “cover it” – In fact a small to medium size city, with proper planning, can get away with a single Fire Hall.  The coloured area isn’t the operating range; it’s the area at which the Fire Hall bonuses will apply (Happiness).

The Fire Truck must reach the fire in time before the building burns down!  If there are traffic problems, you have city problems too!  This applies to all of your emergency services.  If that Ambulance cannot reach the sick patient, that’s a death in your city.  Police cannot get to the crime in time as it occurs?  Criminals run rampant!  City planning is important, and cannot be stressed enough!

Up, not out
The plots your cities are in seem small, but they are reasonable.  Plopping a huge area for residential might seem like something you would do for previous versions of SimCity, but not this time around.  Doing so will just cover your land in dozens of tiny houses or mobile homes!  Increasing the land value (Through nearby parks and city services) will turn those homes into Duplex’s and Estates, but they still only contain a low population and take lots of room.

This is where “Up, not out” comes into play.  With proper nearby commercial (Shopping & Jobs) and industrial (Jobs) zoning, your houses will increase in size/population.  That small home may become an Apartment Tenement or High-Rise.  If the value is high as well, it will be a nice multi-story Condominium or Skyscraper

Speaking of Jobs…
It’s not made very obvious and is briefly touched in the tutorial, but click on the Population at the bottom of the screen and switch to the Detail tab.  You can see underemployment (Too many jobs) and unemployment (Not enough jobs).  Try your best to balance these numbers by either increasing the proper residential type, or job type.  For instance, if you have lots of high-dense low-tech factories, you will have lots of low-class jobs and likely have underemployment!  I’ve seen a single high-dense low-tech factory increasing the need for low-class workers by 1,000!

Expand Slowly
Speaking of high-dense low-tech factories, why do you have one anyway?  Did you by chance place a high-dense Road?  Tisk, tisk.  Build the lowest density roads first, always and forever.  You have no need for high-dense buildings until you’re ready to start expanding UP.  A large factory needs lots and lots of jobs, so you would need to counter it with some high population apartment, but that means you’d need larger stores… and prepare for it all to spiral out of control.  Start small, expand slowly, or your city will surely crumble before you.

Running low on Water?
One mistake we made repeatedly was running out of water for our cities.  The water table shows you where the best locations to place Water Towers or Pumps, but doesn’t do a very good job of explaining how to renew the water!  Your Sewage Treatment plant will recycle the waste generated by your city, and a nearby Water Pump with an attached Filter (An upgrade in the Edit menu) will pull waste from the ground and clean it for your citizens.  Be sure your clinics and hospitals are up to snuff, as the filter won’t produce 100% clean water…!  I’ve also heard that when it rains the Water table is slightly renewed, but I cannot confirm this as true.