Pet Peeve: Forests and Land Value

So here's something that I noticed in the beta. As you can imagine, some things will change after the final version is released to the public, so I'm holding out hope that this may be something that Maxis reconsiders. Behold the following two images of the same location:

The first image is of the actual map showing an area that contains two extensive parks and then immediately below them on the other side of the road is a forest which I planted. The second image is of the land value map for the exact same area (I moved the camera slightly).

This is visual evidence that planted forests (circled in green) offer no value to the land they occupy and I think that's a mistake. I think proximity to a forest should do two things: clean up air pollution and increase the land value on neighboring properties. They are the only member of the "parks" HUD that fails to increase land value. This exclusion strikes me as odd.

Any way, it was just something I noticed that bugged me.

Beta 2: 24 Hours of Circles

Welcome back, everyone. Yesterday was a crazy one! EA launched beta test #2 and I was there to help sniff out bugs with my insane building trials, love of the curvy road tool, and code-breaking obsession with intertwined bridges.

I played no less than twelve games of SimCity and have a much better understanding of many of the nitty-gritty game mechanics now. I also have a few screenshots here as well as a plethora of information, gameplay stories, and videos. I'm going to try to piece them all together as fast as possible, but please be patient.

SimCity 281: Culture Ploppables

Cultural landmarks are important in any large city. Having some extra cash just lying around doing nothing means that you can invest in some visually unique buildings that add character and bring in tourists by the busload. There are also some fully-functional buildings in the same menu you can use to generate huge installments of cash.

I'm going to categorize cultural ploppables into two categories: icons [I] and functionals [F]. Icons just look pretty; functionals actually do something like host events or house humans. I consider functionals to be more valuable than their cosmetic cousins and so I have them higher on the list below.

Most Valuable Culture Plops

  • [F] Arena
  • [F] Stadium
  • [F] Sears Tower (aka the Willis Tower)
  • [F] Arc de Triomphe
  • [I] Washington Monument
  • [I] The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Effect on Land Values

Let me tell you a story. One time, my best friend and I went to Fantasty Fest in Key West. We drove down in his car, parked on the street, had a blast for seven hours, then came back to the car at 2am to discover that all four of his tires had been flattened by the guy who owned the house we were parked in front of because we were taking up "his spot". Now, that guy was a tool -- but I understood his position.

Locals hate tourists -- no matter how much money they bring in. So you may not have realized this, but whenever you plop down a cultural icon into your city the land value of the surrounding area goes down as people react to the threat of thousands of would-be paparazzi descending on their front yard.

[F] The Arena

This is the best functional I've come across so far. It's compact, it doesn't soak up too much power or water, and it hosts large sized events that can attract plenty of tourists and rake in some nice dough. The arena can host events. You have to lay out the cash in advance, but if you have a quality tourism industry in place, you'll make it all back and then some. Not to mention the extra cash generated as the tourists walk around.

You can add a goofy-looking eight-story fabric sign.

It's also worth noting that the arena is surrounded by a private road that you cannot connect to or demolish.

[F] The Pro Stadium

The stadium is really cool. Firstly, you can host events there -- just like at the arena, but bigger. This generates huge buckets of cash if you have the mass transit system to support the throngs of tourists who will be coming to the show from all over the region.

The downside of stadiums is that they are a humongous power draw and water hog, so the construction of a stadium will instantly tax your systems and force you to upgrade those as well. These hidden costs, if not prepared for in advance, could be trouble. In addition, the stadium is a huge amount of space (especially when compared to the arena) and it's all negative property value, so make sure you plop it in the right place or you can really screw up your neighborhoods.

You can add a crazy big Madison Square Garden-type sign that displays what events are coming up to people who are driving by. Great advertising makes for great turnout.

Just like the arena, the stadium is surrounded by a private road that you cannot connect to or demolish. Also just like the arena, you can host even bigger events at your stadium to draw in mega-crowds of tourists and the cash that comes with them.

[F] The Sears... er, Willis Tower

Ask anyone in Chicago for directions to the Willis Tower and they will tell you to go jump in the river. Or they may give you directions to the Tower that seem to mysteriously lead you instead toward the nearest bridge over the river. Either way, it's not the Willis Tower. It will forever be the Sears Tower -- no matter who owns it.

Anyway, back to the game. This thing is freakin' huge. It towers into the sky and fits nicely into a busy downtown skyline filled with skyscrapers but looks ridiculous in a city of 5,000. This ploppable is doubly awesome because in addition to being a tremendous tourist magnet, it also houses residents of your city -- making this a dual purpose facility that generates cash like crazy.

Arc de Triomphe

Originally in Paris and painstakingly transported piece by piece over the pond to your city -- this beautiful monument actually serves a function. If you place it next to a block of commercial properties, the resulting influx of tourists will boost the commercial economy and create low- and medium-wealth jobs.

[I] Washington Monument

This thing is crazy phallic and looks hysterically inappropriate when placed in a valley. People will come to check it out because George Washington was a cool guy and they don't care that he never actually owned any cherry trees.

[I] Leaning Tower of Pisa

Sure, we'll just drop this crazy broken building into the middle of our city for no reason. Are they aware that the thing is literally losing a battle with gravity and that no one can go near it because it could topple over at any minute? Then why is it next to my hospital?

SimCity 261: Coal Mine

At the launch of every city, you are given a readout of the resources in your area. Coal is one such resource and, once you determine where the coal is in your city site, you'll need a way to extract it.

Coal Mine

Coal mines are the first step in coal extraction. They are clumsy and inefficient, but they'll get you started in setting up the basic network that allows you to dig up, transport, and sell or use coal.

In the image above, I have added every module available to the coal mine. That includes four conveyor belt towers, four truck garages, and a sign so that I remember what it is I do there.

Metal HQ

The metal headquarters building includes coal under it's umbrella of influence. To upgrade to an advanced coal mine, you're going to have to pony up not only the money for the headquarters building itself but also one of its upgrades -- which costs 200,000 simoleans. It's a tall feat, but it's worth it.

SimCity 258: Mayor's House and Mansion

So, there isn't much to say about this one. It doesn't do anything for your city except take up room and it doesn't have any modules, so really it just sits there. It's cosmetic and goes really nicely with some of the high-wealth, low-density buildings, but if you need the room don't think twice about demolishing it.

My Other House is a Mansion

Once you earn a certain level of prestige and renown, your people will bless you with your very own mansion. My advice would be to chop down that hideous house the second your mansion is habitable.

My Architect is an Idiot

So, while I was working on taking the photo of the mansion with all of its accoutrements in place, I had quite a time trying to get all of the modules on the board in the allotted snap points.

The image above is a more elevated view that shows where everything goes. Basically, someone over at Maxis had definite ideas of how the mayor's mansion was going to be laid out and left little room for error. I'm sure there are others, but if you're having trouble making your mansion work, here's one layout that keeps everything compact.

The modules for the mansion -- none of which do anything except look pretty -- are as follows:

  • 1 Guard Post
  • 1 Guest House
  • 1 Balcony
  • 1 Sports Car Garage
  • 1 BBQ Patio
  • 1 Fountain (can only go out front)
  • 1 Flag
  • 1 Extension Wing
  • 1 Party Wing
  • 1 Tennis Court
  • 1 Swimming Pool
  • 1 Frankly Nazi-looking Eagle
  • 1 Limo Garage
  • 1 Greenhouse (all the better to stone you with?)
  • 1 Suicide Tower
  • 1 Helipad (compliments the one at your office)

SimCity 257: City Hall

You're the mayor. That means you've got to have someplace to do all the important decision making things that you do everyday. Enter: the town hall.

Town Hall

The town hall is an important first step in the life of a young city. It's your personal headquarters. Your office. Your throne room. Your prison. Once built, you can change the name of your city if you choose and it grants you access to some of the more important ploppable services you're going to be using.

City Hall

Your first upgrade for town hall is to boost it to the level of city hall. When you upgrade -- which you can do from the government HUD -- the building will retrofit itself with a brand new marble facade. You will also be granted the first of your many department modules.

City Hall is going to get quite sizable. In the image above, I stacked as many of the six departments on top of each other as I could, but notice that the department of education stands alone in it's own building. You know how professors are -- so full of themselves.

Module: Sign

Just in case there's a sudden rush of people building with marble and your city hall becomes lost among the weeds, you can plop a crazy-big sign out in front of the building so your citizens can distinguish your building from, say, that of the 4th-century roman emperor who moved in across the street.

Department Coverage

For each of the following modules, bonuses and unlocked buildings are in effect for every city site in the region once any one city site has it. That means if one city hall has all the departments, the other city halls in the region don't need to bother building their own. This is a huge space saver and a reason to "specialize" in government and politics.

Department Module: Transportation

This is the department I would go for first because it's most important features is that it allows cities in the region to share Sims via a network of train stations, bus terminals, airports, and docks. Diminishes the costs involved in your transportation system.

Department Module: Utilities

I'd go for this one second, as the water towers you've been using will eventually run dry and you're going to want to have the pumping station when they do. Improves the coverage and efficiency of your utility systems -- namely power, sewage, and water. It also unlocks the sewage plant and recycling centers.

Department Module: Finance

Boosts your tax revenues and allows you to micromanage your tax rates based on class.

Department Module: Education

Gives a boost to your education system and it's effects on your Sims -- rocketing them upward from retarded mooks that regularly set themselves on fire to snobby erudites who know what the word "erudite" means. This department is required if you want a university or a high school -- and you do.

Department Module: Safety

Boosts your police, fire, and health services -- speed, coverage, and effectiveness. Once you plop this one down, you'll be allowed to use the hospital, large fire station, and precinct.

Department Module: Tourism

Effectively drives your tourism industry by generating tourists who arrive via train, bus, and ferry. You also gain a bunch of cosmetic/tourist-attracting buildings, including landmarks, stadium, and parks.

Module: SimCopter One

Allows you to fly around the city and to/from your mansion -- once you own one, that is. Of course, a real mayor would use the subway to show that he or she is one of the people. But since there are no subways in SimCity 5, your version of the gas guzzler is acceptable.

SimCity 255: Train Station

The train station is a great feature to have in any city. If you can find a way to snake it into the center of your city, that's the best case scenario, as train passengers don't have cars and will have to rely on buses and such if your train station is shoved over in a corner or something like that.

The train station comes with a little piece of starter road attached to the front of it. So you can plop it down anywhere and then connect a road to after it's placed rather than before.


In the above image of a "fully-upgraded" train station, the sign is the only module that is available and it is only cosmetic.

Upper Class Accommodations

The train only accommodates high-wealth and medium-wealth citizens. It brings in tourists and wealthy customers -- all of which generate tax revenue. However, the train station does nothing for low-wealth Sims. Don't expect these poor souls to travel the rails to their jobs in a distant factory in another city site.

SimCity 254: Ferry

The ferry is a boat that takes Sims too and from their home city sites to other sites for a variety of reasons: shopping, work, crime, etc. The ferry makes regular stops and carries the most Sims of all the mass transit options. In order to utilize the ferry, there needs to be a ferry in a foreign city site as well as your own so that your Sims actually have some place to go and aren't just floating around the ocean getting drunk.

The ferry comes with a little piece of starter road attached to the front of it. So you can plop it down anywhere where there's water and then connect it to the main road after rather than the reverse, which would be insanely inconvenient.

Due to the fact that this ploppable must be dropped near a coastal body of water, you need to set up bus stops outside the ferry to maximize the efficiency of the ferry.

Module: Cruise Ship Dock

This is a huge bonus to your local tourism system. Not only do the cruise ships bring in tourists from foreign lands who shop in your shops, but they also accept local tourists looking for adventure.

SimCity 251: Shuttle Bus

Shuttle buses tote local passengers around the city so they can accomplish the day-to-day tasks they set out to do. This service is especially important for low-wealth citizens who can't afford to own their own car.

Another important aspect of a thorough shuttle bus service is the transportation of workers and tourists who come into your city site but have no car to travel long distances. Failure to service train stations, ferry piers, and streetcar hubs with shuttle bus stops will reduce their effectiveness and cost you money.

Module: Bus Garage

When thousands of Sims depend on your bus service to get where they need to go, wait times can begin to approach and then exceed an hour -- unless, of course, you add more buses to the system. Garages are required for each bus that travels a route and the more you have, the less time your Sims will need to wait. This may, at first, not seem important. However, the faster your Sims get to work, the more money you'll make in tax revenue. So keep your bus system well lubed and your passengers in motion.

SimCity 249: University

Universities are the grand expression of education. They will rapidly advance the culture and education level of the surrounding population and serve up an influx of young students all with charge cards and no sense of debt or planning for the future.

Modules: Schools

Most people don't understand the difference between a college and a university. A university is a collection of schools -- each school focusing on a different discipline. So a university might have a school of engineering, a school of law, and a school of business. A college, on the other hand, is a single school with a single focus. That is true of community colleges, too; their single discipline is general knowledge (or sometimes liberal arts).

The university in your town can have several buildings dedicated to each of five disciplines:

  • Engineering
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Science
  • Business

Modules: Dormitories

Keeping in mind that most people who attend a university don't live across the street, resident students who call your university home require a place to live while they are on campus. You can plop down up to three residential dorms then sit back and watch the fireworks.

Module: The Sign

Finally, there is a ploppable for which the sign is indispensable! There is no such thing as a hoity-toity university that doesn't have a big-ass sign out in front of Old Main. Congratulations: your years of dabbling in signage have finally paid off.

SimCity 248: Community Colleges

The community college is a unique piece in the education system. Firstly, it generates highly-trained workers who blossom your industrial sector -- making it more productive. This has a net effect of generating large amounts of revenue. But it also has a direct effect on any nearby industrial zones. The closer an industrial zone is to a community college, the higher it will rank in terms of tech level. The result of this gentrification is cleaner factories and more money.

Modules: Additional Classrooms

The benefit of additional classrooms is obviously you can generate a larger number of graduating students. The downside, however, is that these classrooms are both large and unstackable -- meaning they are going to take up a huge chunk of your map. This shouldn't be a concern if your city is an industrial powerhouse, however you may want to outsource the community college to a neighboring city site if you can't spare the space.

SimCity 246: Libraries

The library is an education building that you can add to your city. It has two purposes -- it aids the education of your sims and it also gives a very slight boost to property values. It doesn't have any modules or any advanced strategies, however it is crucial to obtaining a full 5-star rating on your population's education rating.

SimCity 242: Water Ploppables

Supplying your citizens with water isn't very complicated. To begin, you're going to want to use the very inexpensive water towers which simply suck up water from the water table and then use gravity to pump it out to all of your Sims. However, later on you're going to want to upgrade to a water treatment facility to save space and produce more water.

Water Tower

A water tower is simply a tall water storage container that sucks water up and holds it until it's needed. These are the inexpensive water units, but they use up vast amounts of valuable real estate when you try to supply a city of 25,000 or more. At that threshold, you'll need to start planning to buy a water treatment facility.

Water Treatment Facility

The water treatment facility is the preferred method of watering your Sims. Firstly, it can suck up large quantities of ground water and takes up little room on your map. But more importantly, it also has the ability to clean water -- with the right modules -- so it can also use dirty ground water without getting people sick.

In the image above you can see a fully upgraded water treatment facility with it's maximum six pumps -- five regular pumps and one treatment pump (left).

The Water Table

At the beginning of the game, it may seem that you have tons of water on your map. However, the truth is that as you plop down various water units they change the water table as they suck up the water. Over time, each unit will be able to suck up less and less water until they run dry. So you'll need to make plans and changes over time to accommodate the changing water table.

SimCity 241: Sewage Ploppables

Sewage isn't a very complicated aspect of this game. Together, these two ploppables combine to take care of the waste water your citizens naturally produce.

Sewage Pipe

This pipe takes the sewage and literally dumps it out onto the ground. From there, it seeps back into the earth and becomes ground pollution. As you can imagine, there's no way to improve a pipe that sticks out of the ground and spews crap everywhere so there are no modules for this one.

Treatment Plant

Treating your sewage allows you to safely pour the contents out onto the ground without causing pollution. You can expand the treatment plant by adding additional whirly sewage treatment tanks (max: 7).

SimCity 240: Garbage Ploppables

Your citizens are going to make large piles of rubbish that you're going to have to collect and pack away or burn or something -- lest they getting sick or carried off by rats.

You have two options: you can spend tons of money trying to shove tons of trash into the ground -- or, you can make tons of money by sorting the garbage and turning it back into raw material. The choice is yours, but make it soon because as we speak someone in your town is throwing out the trash.

Garbage Dump

The cheap yet not-so-cheap way to handle garbage is to simply dump it into a landfill. To do this, simply build a garbage dump and select hunks of land ("dump zones") for occupation by the enemy. Landfills are free, so you can set up eight of them for only the cost of the truck garages (max: 8).

If you bulldoze a garbage dump, the garbage is immediately converted to ground pollution.

If you decide to abandon the idea of recycling, you'll eventually grow to a point where storing garbage is simply unfeasible. At that point, you will have to begin burning garbage in incinerators (max: 8) in order to keep yourself from being buried in it. With this in mind, make sure you build your garbage dump downwind of any residential zones so you don't drive people out of your city or crush property values.

TIP: the garbage dump comes with a landfill already attached. However, the placement of this landfill is horrible. Your best bet is to demolish the landfill that they give you and replace it with another after you extend the service road. This will allow you to minimize the amount of space required for garbage.

Recycling Center

The expensive yet not-so-expensive way to handle garbage is to sort it into it's component parts via a recycling center. Once you have extracted the composite materials, you can then sell them and actually turn a profit if your people are dirty enough.

Upgrades to the recycling center include reclamation lines that speed the process up and various garbage trucks that either collect unsorted garbage or transport raw materials to the global market for sale.

  • 8 garbage truck garages (pickup)
  • 4 garbage truck garages (delivery)
  • 4 reclamation lines

In fact, there are so many garages that this building is a particular nightmare to layout. I highly recommend running a road behind the building for the garbage truck garages to compact the space required for this ploppable as much as possible.

SimCity 235: Hospitals

The hospital is the gold standard of health recovery in any industrialized nation. Where prevention fails, the doctors and nurses in your hospital will take up the slack. These facilities are infinitely better than the clinics they replace. Getting to the point where you can afford to build and maintain a hospital is a benchmark you should try to achieve as fast as possible.

Module: Sign

Since almost every patient that arrives at the hospital is lying on their back in an ambulance, I'm not really sure why you need the sign. But if the mood suits you, go for it.

Modules: Ambulance Bays

Same as in a clinic, your ambulances go out and snatch up sick Sims and rush them back to your hospital.

4 modules available

Modules: Wellness Centers

Wellness centers are standalone facilities that teach your Sims how not to injure themselves.

4 modules available

Modules: Patient Wings

When patients need time to recuperate because of a serious illness, these stackable wings provide your citizens with their own temporary bed and temporary CRT-style TV.

4 modules available

Module: Emergency Room

Conducts emergency diagnosis for very sick Sims.

Module: Surgery Center

Operates on Sims with severe injuries to save their lives.

Module: Laboratory

Conducts scientific research and lab tests.

Maximized Layout

Here is a top-down view of a hospital I built with all of the modules attached. I think this is the most compact layout that you can get. The wellness centers are on the road behind the hospital and the whole thing fits neatly into my city grid squares.

SimCity 234: Large Police Station

Before you get all huffy, a precinct and a station are the exact same thing. Don't believe me? Google it. In the meantime, I refuse to contribute to the insanity over at Maxis. If "large fire station" was acceptable, I don't see why "large police station" wasn't as well.

Anyway, the large police station is the most compact and vastly upgradable building in SimCity. It has a staggering number of modules yet takes up less space when fully upgraded than most of the other equally-expanded ploppables in the game.

Modules: Sign

Don't worry: convicts know where they are. Besides, when was the last time you saw a police "precinct" with enough cash to buy a three-story monolith to hang outside their building?

Modules: Dispatch Tower

Gets your cops out faster. It improves the overall response time of your police force.

Modules: Patrol Car Lot

Adds patrol cars the same way as in smaller police stations, but it adds more patrol cars with each plop. The result is that you get more cops on the road faster, but you also increase your monthly police expenses faster.

4 modules for a total of 28 patrol cars

Modules: Jail Cells

Same as in smaller police stations -- they even stack the same way.

4 modules

Modules: Crime Prevention Centers

Work on educating your Sims, making them less vulnerable to crimes.

4 modules, shared with detective wing

Modules: Detectives Wing

Search houses and work on getting particularly wily criminals like murders and arsonists.

4 modules, shared with crime prevention centers

Modules: Helipads

Airborne crime fighting: you can't beat it. These sky cops drop in on your the criminal underbelly unexpectedly with handcuffs gleaming in the searchlights.

4 available


You can actually pack this one in quite tightly to save space. They take up almost the same amount of space as a small police station. The photo above is the same as the one at the head of this article, except it's from another angle to show the other modules that I stacked in the rear.

SimCity 233: Large Fire Station

So, fire stations in SimCity do what they can, but they're basically manned by volunteers who -- let's face it -- aren't at the top of their class. Chances are, if you set the oven to 800-degrees, your house is rubble.

That's where the super-duper large fire station comes in.

Design Considerations

This thing has a lot of garages attached to it -- eight in total. I would highly recommend either plopping this thing at the end of a t-bone intersection and putting the garages across the street or building a road immediately behind the large fire station just for the garages.

Hazardous Material

So, in our modern age, there are chemicals out there that are both toxic and flammable. When those chemicals are being driven around by your uneducated Sims, they have a tendency to tip the trucks and cause massive chemical fires. The only way to prevent widespread damage is to be the proud owner of your very own HAZMAT unit. They're only available with the large fire stations, so getting one is important once your city starts getting highrises and stuff.

Module: Dispatch Tower

This tower radios every fire truck that you have in your city -- not just those that work out of the large firehouse. This provides a massive benefit to your entire fire coverage system.

Module: Fire Truck Garage

The same fire trucks that you get in a regular fire house inside the same garages you get in a regular fire house.

4 available

Module: HAZMAT Garage

Special fire trucks with specially trained firefighters that excel at putting out chemical fires.

4 available

Module: Fire Marshals

These guys are really cool. They travel around the board and visit random buildings. Whenever they walk into a building, that building becomes immune from fire for a few days.

4 available

Module: Fire Copters

Airborne fire coverage: you can't beat it. They sit on pads on top of the roofs of your modules -- so they don't take up space -- until needed.

4 available

Modules: Sign and Flagpole

What is that humungous red building over there? You know, the one that takes up three city blocks and has all the fire trucks parked in front of it? If only there was a sign -- and a flagpole.

SimCity 232: Police Station

Police stations are the first line of defense for a new city against it's growing population and the criminals it births. At first when you build your city, everyone is oddly sociable and well adjusted. However, as the city grows, if you fail to provide any police protection, your city will descend into anarchy and some Lord of the Flies stuff that, frankly, I don't even want to think about.

The police station (shown above with all of the modules added) is the first and least expensive of the crime fighting ploppables, but it also has a limited range and effectiveness. Without additional buildings and upgrades, the two cops who come with it will become quickly overwhelmed by the crime families and gangs that naturally incubate inside a city.

Module: Jail

It's simple: when a cop finds a criminal, where's he going to put him? He can't just ride around the countryside with dozens of con men smashed into the back of his patrol car. That would be cruel and unusual. Building jails to house your criminals will allow you to slowly reduce the overall crime rate of the area around your station.

You can have up to four jail modules per station. One of them can get plopped on top of the station proper, however I think that looks goofy. It's better to lay the first two jail modules side by side and then plop the second two on top of the first two. It takes up a little more space, but I think it's worth it.

Module: More Cop Cars

Adding more and more cop cars is very important. Each pair of cop cars you add to your fleet will reduce crime exponentially. I highly recommend maxing out your bruiser cruisers whenever you can.

Module: Sign

It's a sign. It says "Cops" just in case there are English-speaking tourists in the area who need help or directions.

Module: Flag Pole

It's a flag pole. I adds that little bit of something that you'll only notice while you're plopping it down because the thing is so freakin' thin that a thousand times you pass by the police station you'll never see it.

SimCity 231: Fire Station

Fire stations are the initial ploppable by which you will control your citizens' ability to set themselves on fire. These buildings dispatch fire trucks around your city in response to fire events. Depending on how you upgrade the building -- and you're going to want to fully upgrade each one you build -- they dispatch more trucks and they do it faster.

The photo above shows a fully upgraded fire station. I put my flag pole on the corner between the main building and the garages, the sign on top of the first garage I added, the bell on top of the main station, and then ran the garages down the street because I wasn't overly concerned about maximizing real estate. Upgrades are important. Without them, fires will be put out but they will absolutely be reduced to rubble.

Module: Bell

When a fire is about to start, the Sims will make humorous comments that show that they have done something stupid and their house is about to catch fire. When a bell is attached to your fire house, your engines will begin rolling the second this though bubble pops up. Failing the installation of a bell, your engines will roll shortly after the fire begins. Having a bell on each of your stations will greatly improve your fire coverage, reduce your rubble and abandonment problems, and help you mitigate the amount of pain engines caught in traffic will cause you.

Module: Garage

Unlike the police station which simply plops down two extra cars in their parking lot, fire trucks require their own garage in order to function. This means that generally speaking, fire stations take up more space than police stations. The best way to handle this is to build a road along side your fire station that pulls back away from the main road dedicated solely to your garages. This keeps them from taking up valuable real estate.

Module: Pole and Sign

Sadly the fire pole is a flag pole and not a fireman's pole. Other than my personal disappointment, these two modules are cosmetic and offer no benefit to your city.

SimCity 230: Health Clinic

Health care in SimCity is mostly about prevention -- as it is in real life. With this in mind, the health clinic is very sparse and offers your citizens very little in the way of protection and recuperation. That's why things like water pollution and garbage pileups can be so devastating before you can build a hospital.

But while you're waiting for your citizens to become too smart to eat bad Chinese, your clinic is better than nothing.

Modules: Patient Wings

Expands the number of people that the clinic can see at any given time. This reduces wait time and saves lives.

Modules: Ambulance Bays

While Sims will try to walk to your clinic if they have no other way to get there, some Sims are too sick (injured) to try. As a result, they either need an ambulance or they need a coffin. Plop down some ambulance bays (max: 4) to give your Sims a speedy recovery.

Module: Sign

Nothing is as comforting when you need a doctor as seeing the sign in front of the clinic. If nothing else, it's something to stare at while you're sitting in the waiting room for an hour.

SimCity 208: Pollution Planning

Pollution occurs when our quest for more money comes at the expense of common sense. Having people live two blocks downwind of a coal burning power plant is going to cause problems for everyone involved. But the positioning of those two entities may make some kind of financial sense that can cloud your judgement in the moment and cost you in the long run.

So combating pollution is about two things: planning ahead to anticipate future problems and ignoring shortcuts in time or money that might tempt you into abandoning your well laid plans.

Types of Pollution

There are several types of pollution -- some of which you may never have considered. They are as follows:

  • Water Pollution
  • Air Pollution
  • Ground Pollution
  • Value Pollution
  • Time Pollution

Preventing Water Pollution

Once water is contaminated, only a water filter can clean it. So the object is to prevent water pollution in the first place. From the very first road you place, you should have a view of the water table and anticipate how industrial zones, sewage outlet pipes, and power plants will contribute to contamination and how far that contamination will spread. Then, build accordingly.

Clearing Air Pollution

The air we breathe is essential for life in the same way as water and food. The number one source of air pollution in your city starts out as factories but will promptly be dwarfed by the smog pouring out of the back of people's cars. Your best defense against poor air quality is a mass transit system that is easy, convenient, and planned around stops at key strategic areas.

Stamping Out Ground Pollution

Industrial zones and garbage dumps are the two chief causes of ground pollution. Theoretically, you can burn your garbage and pull in recycling to solve that problem after the fact, so don't worry about that one. Instead, focus on industrial zones as they will be laid out at the start of your game. Spread out your industrial zones as much as you can. Sprinkle them around the board and place other zones like low-wealth residential and parks in between to break up the smog.

Understanding Value Pollution

When you plop down a park and upgrade a neighborhood to mansions, that's an almost immediate example of positive land value. But it's still value pollution because now there is less space for poor people to live. By definition, pollution is an exchange of something you want for a side effect you probably didn't see and certainly don't want. A factory produces crates of goods that will someday become money but belches smoke that will someday kill the workers, neighbors, and probably the guy who owns the joint.

Value pollution occurs anytime you don't consider the downside of increasing the value of something. For instance, cramming your downtown with rich and famous people will dramatically increase traffic and drown your streets in gridlock. Why? Because rich people don't take buses or street cars. And they certainly don't walk places. That just leaves cars. Adding parks to your downtown area will increase traffic.

Preventing this is about designing a city in pockets. As early in the game as you can, identify where you want your rich folks, where you want your poor folks. Keep the rich near the highway to limit their smog and keep them out of the downtown area -- which should be all middle-class. For the poor people, make sure there are bus stations nearby and that you don't put any bus stops in rich neighborhoods as this will be a waste of time, gas, and planning.

Combating Time Pollution

Time stuck in traffic. Time waiting for a bus. Time looking for a medical building to cure a sliced forehead. Everyday -- at every fraction of every second -- your citizens spend their time doing one of two things: either spending their time richly or spending their time poorly.

As mayor, you contribute to time expenditure in ways you may have not considered. Every traffic light is time that could be better spent doing something else. So limit your intersections by having long streets. Cramming industrial zones in to a corner downwind of people's homes is perfect planning -- unless there's no direct road laid to get to that corner. Then you have people snaking their way through your city to get to work. Every day.

The question you should always be asking is: how can I help my citizens do what they do -- only faster. Then, build roads, bus stations, rezone, and re-plop as necessary.

SimCity 207: Citizens

If this game were solely about zoning RCI (residential, commercial, industrial zones), then you would be bored with it within five to thirty-seven minutes. The key to what makes SimCity fun is the ploppable buildings and how they help, hinder, or satisfy the Sims and their needs.

But what are these needs? What is it that the citizens of your great city want?

If you focus on any one individual person, their needs change wildly. But as a group, their needs are all the same and simply providing umbrella services that address all the needs as they come up is the key to maintaining your sanity and making sure your plebs are provided for. Here's what we know about our loyal flock:

They Populate

Your citizens comes from some mysterious place out in the world -- having heard about your fledgling community via Twitter. When they arrive, they claim land and embark on their new lives completely unsupervised.

They Plop

Your citizens take care of their own houses. After determining which zone an area must be, the Sims will take it from there. If the land value or density goes up or down, the people who live in the neighborhood will build or tear down as necessary. This is a good thing, as seeing to the day-to-day whims of architecture and construction would be monotonous.

They Party

Your citizens are always in the market for a good time. When they get it, they become happy and your city thrives. However, when they party, your Sims also generate a lot of garbage.

They Play

Your citizens and those from surrounding cities are always looking to go on vacation. The number one thing they want to see when they come to your city from afar: parks. Then casinos. Then ferry rides to nowhere. But mostly parks.

They Peruse

Your citizens want to be more than they are. They are willing to learn if you supply them with schools, colleges, and universities. Then, they will apply that knowledge to their lives, using less resources in their day-to-day lives and upgrading their factories to produce cleaner, more expensive products.

They Pontificate

Your citizens are always willing to give you their opinion. While looking across the vast layout of your city, you will be bombarded with feedback -- both good and bad.

Your citizens will also ask for things. They will challenge you, dare you, and otherwise occupy you so that you can delve into the bowls of your city on a micro- level as deep as you see fit. You can tell what your citizens want by the color of their speak bubble:

  • white bubbles: challenge -- they want to help or test you with a challenge that you can then pass or fail. These are mostly requests or dares.
  • green bubbles: satisfaction -- they like what you're doing
  • orange bubbles: general opinion about the city
  • red bubbles: dissatisfaction -- they hate something about your city

They Pile-Up

Your citizens tell their friends about their lives. When you're doing well as a mayor, more and more people will want to be apart of something special. They will pack it in and build apartments, skyscrapers, and shopping malls to fit the maximum number of people onto each square foot of land.

They Produce

Your citizens want money and they're willing to work quite hard to get it. Once they've become highly-educated, they'll make lots of money and share some of it with you. Think of your people as thousands of money to happiness converters.

They Faux Pas

Your citizens will sometimes make mistakes. They set their houses on fire and let themselves go until they have to go to the hospital. Anticipate that sliver of your population that doesn't have a clue and set up services to keep them from harming themselves and others.

They Poop

Your citizens are members of a first world country. As a result, they make waste. Lots and lots of waste. They make bathroom waste after they eat. They make garbage waste after they buy stuff. They make smoke waste whenever they drive their cars: usually to eat and buy stuff.

The problem with living on a road by yourself is that anyone can identify your personal poop.

They Pilfer

Your citizens are mostly good, decent people who would never think of crime. But there are some bad seeds that will steal from others simply because it's easier than doing it the honest way. Set up a police force to maintain law and order.

At the end of the day, the best way to make it to the top of the leaderboard is by understanding what your people want and don't want by putting yourself in their shoes and then building a town to suit. Either you build a town that handles everything Sims don't want (pollution, sewage) and then charge others to take care of their problems or you build a perfect town full of happiness and shops and then ship your crap to your neighbors.

In short: always keep your people in mind.

SimCity 205: Industrial Planning

Mousing over the information button on the zoning HUD will give you the following tips on industrial zoning:

  • Zone industrial to attract factories
  • Factories provide jobs and make freight
  • Factories ship freight to shops, trade depots, trade ports, and cargo terminals at airports
  • If a factory can't ship enough freight, it will go abandoned

Industrial zoning is one of the easiest aspects of the game. Though handling pollution can become a problem if you don't take that into consideration while planning your city, all other aspects of industrial development are handled by the Sims.


Your low-wealth residents will need places to work so they can live off the money they make and industrial zones fit the bill. Industrial zones will flourish when they have an adequate population of low-education, low-wealth residents. In return, they pump money into the local economy and that money generates happiness and, of course, tax revenue that you as mayor can use to expand and grow your city.


The movement of goods is, in and of itself, an industry that generates tax revenue. Installing airports, sea ports, trade depots, and other freight-movement ploppables will greatly increase the effectiveness of your industrial zones.

Abandonment and Crime

One of the key problems with industrial zones is that they are a magnet for crime. The dirt and low-wealth nature of these businesses -- not to mention that they are generally unoccupied at night -- makes them prime targets for thieves and arsonists. If an industrial factory goes under and the building sits abandoned, this is an even more tempting target for kids who like to play with matches. Stay vigilant when hunting for abandoned buildings so that your fire department doesn't have it's hands full.

SimCity 204: Commercial Planning

Mousing over the information button on the zoning HUD will give you the following tips on commercial zoning:

  • Zone commercial to attract shops
  • Shops create jobs
  • Shops sell goods to shoppers and tourists
  • Higher wealth shops cater to higher wealth customers
  • If a shop can't sell enough goods, it will go abandoned

So commercial zoning is about four things:


The people who live in your town need places to work. The have two choices: commercial zones and industrial zones. It's the combination of the two that provide a wide array of money options and maximize your city's operating revenue.


Happiness is provided by parks and purchases -- namely trips to Simkea and Sim, Bath, and Beyond. In this way, residential and commercial zones feed off of each other, so you want to keep them near to one another. Ideally, you want to interlace them together to minimize traffic. In addition, neither zone pollutes. So if you segregate your RC neighborhoods away from your industrial, you can prevent illness: a key source of unhappiness.


Catering to the rich and famous, upscale boutiques are the first step in advancing toward skyscrapers. This crucial first step is accomplished by placing parks near low-density commercial zones. This will increase their land value, encourage the construction of boutiques, and then attract high-wealth Sims to your city.


If a shop goes abandoned, you need to remember to demolish it so it doesn't become a haven for crime and firebugs.

SimCity 203: Residential Planning

Mousing over the information button on the zoning HUD will give you the following tips on residential zoning:

  • Zone residential to attract houses.
  • Residents (workers, shoppers, and kids) live in houses.
  • Workers earn money at factories and shops.
  • Shoppers spend money at shops to buy happiness.
  • Build parks and services to attract wealthy houses.
  • If a building can't pay rent, it will go abandoned.
  • When Sims abandon their homes, they become homeless if they have no money. Otherwise, they leave town.
  • Mid- and high-wealth Sims leave town when they abandon their home.

So residential zoning is about four things:

Establishing a Citizenry

Especially important at the beginning of the game, your primary task when zoning residential is to give that first wave of citizens a place to live. The first wave is actually quite demanding. About half of them want to live as close to the factories as possible so they don't have to commute too far to work. The second half want to live as far from the factories as possible because they are wealthy enough to commute.

Given a clean board with only a single huge factory (powered and watered) right at the base of the exit ramp from the highway, if you do nothing else but extend the medium-density boulevard that attaches to the exit ramp all the way across the board and line it with residential zoning, about half of your people will cram themselves in right next to the factory/ramp and the other half will shoot across the board to start their new lives as far away from the riffraff as possible.

Now, I did that just as an experiment; that would actually be a horrible way to begin your game. But the point is clear. Given two types of residential citizens, when you plan your city, you're going to want a high-density, low-wealth neighborhood near the factories and a low-density, high-wealth neighborhood far away from the factories.

This works best if they are cattycorner.

Generating Wealth and Happiness

Wealth is generated by plopping down parks in areas where you want to gentrify the buildings. It doesn't get any more complicated than that.

Slightly more taxing, happiness is an incredibly complex task based entirely on minimizing the things that annoy your Sims (crime, fires, illness, sewage, power outages, garbage, etc.) while simultaneously maintaining enough commercial property to satisfy their unquenchable lust for baubles.

Two rules of thumb when trying to make your citizens happy: have at least one of everything (garbage dump, power station, fire department, etc) and make sure you don't see any blue in the zoning demand indicator at the bottom of the screen.

Balancing Low-, Middle-, and Upper-class Populations

If you have a city with all super-wealthy mansions, that's not a bad thing. If you have a city with all lower-class row homes and slum apartments, that's not necessarily a bad thing either. The reason is because super-wealth citizens can take the highway (or train) to go work in other cities, so you could conceivably have a city just dedicated to mansion storage and rake in big money on residential taxes. You can also have a ghetto slum area full of factories for the reverse reason.

But -- if yours is the only city in the region, you are forced to balance your city to accommodate both high- and low-class citizens. Failure to do so will result in severely stunted growth. The key to ending this problem before it begins is planning, and here's how:

Manipulating Property Values to Generate Revenue

Pick a corner. In that corner, you want one residential neighborhood -- one tight little packet of low-density streets -- abutted with many parks. You will christen that neighborhood the home of the filthy rich and plop a police station at the entrance.

Then, you can shift your focus to the rest of the map and the task of satisfying the needs of your low-class citizens -- who will need everything from grade schools to cops.

If you fail to give wealthy citizens a place to call their own -- forcing them to intermingle -- you will increase your workload exponentially and risk driving them out of your city and away from your skyscrapers (not to mention your coffers).

SimCity 201: Roads II

As I said during the intro class on roads and bridges, roads are the blood vessels of your city along which people, power, water, sewage, and information flow. They are the grid that gives your city character, the instructions that gives your city shape, and the thoroughfares that grant or deny access.


Imagine that you are just building your city and you lay two parallel roads on the ground. When you go to lay out your third road, your city planners will show you guidelines that allow you to place the next road at the same distance from the second road as the second road is from the first.

This is incredibly useful when setting up a grid-based city layout.

Straight Roads

Straight roads are the most economical when it comes to preventing wasted space between your city's buildings.

Don't forget: holding down shift while placing roads will make them snap to 90 and 45-degree angles to the passing highway. Straight roads usually create less traffic.

Curved Roads

Curved roads are incredibly fun and can add an esthetic beauty and gracefulness that compliment your city.

Problems: Square Pegs in Arched Holes

The downside of curved roads is that because the buildings are square in nature, they will waste tiny bits of space as they are constructed. The bigger the building, the more space it wastes. Each of these tiny bits of wasted space adds up over time into large quantities of land that would otherwise host buildings if your city utilized a more bland, grid-based design.

If you create a city entirely made out of curved roads, you will have no shot at landing at the top of the leaderboard. However, I have created many curvy cities because they look freakin' awesome. So, it depends on what you're looking to accomplish. Being the best means as few curves as necessary; playing with friends for fun, curve away.

Problems: Disjointed Roads

Let's say that you are laying one of the squares of a road grid. By holding the shift button, you can extend any road in a straight line. Now, let's say that while extending a road, you stop half-way to the next intersection and then attempt to finish the road from the other side. There is a chance that if you are not 100% perfectly on the guideline that when those two sections of road meet, they will not connect properly -- creating, in fact, two overlapping cul de sacs that do not operate as a normal road. Be aware of this and make sure that when you connect roads in this fashion that you double check to make sure that they have created an actual road.

Again, this problem only occurs when you hold shift for each road. If at any time you release the shift key, the game will automatically connect these two roads with no problem. I, as it turns out, am the kind of person who compulsively demands straight roads. I use shift constantly and this happens from time to time as a result.

Problems: Traffic

If you have areas of your city where traffic always seems to back up, you may be tempted to think that this is a result of poor city design and blame yourself. Well, rest assured: it is your fault and had you designed a road system using four basic theories of city planning, you wouldn't have these problems?

So, what are these theories?

  • Connect your corners
  • Interlace residential and commercial properties
  • When it comes to roads: never use anything less than medium density
  • Love mass transit

The maximum distance that people have to travel is from each corner of your city site to the off ramp from the highway. To minimize the amount of traffic produced by your city, you want to connect the corners of your city to this off ramp using roads as direct as possible.

When you zone, if you interlace your commercial and residential zones, you will cut down on the amount of traffic that is on your roads as the people who live in your city can simply walk down to the street to the market instead of driving miles across the city. You do NOT want to interlace industrial into the same areas as this will create pollution and problems in the long run.

There are several types of roads to choose from. However, the low-density roads that seem like a cheap way to lay out your city quickly at the start of the game are an illusion. Using these roads will instantly send your precious baby into total gridlock. Avoid them at all costs by using only medium-density roadways or better.

Finally, you should fall in love with mass transit here and now and attempt in every way to move your citizens around your city using trains, streetcars, and other such tools. Every Sim who you put on a train is one less Sim pumping NOx and SOx into your atmosphere and gumming up the streets they share with cops and firefighters.