Since even Maxis has failed to provide a comprehensive list of what each of their gameplay settings do outside of the game, I've decided to handle it.
This is where you can change how the game looks and plays.
- Game Manual
This opens up a browser to Maxis' online game manual -- which you can see here.
- Help Center
This links you to the Origin help center that comes with the Origin game client. If you disable the help center in your Origin game client, you'll get a "this service has been disabled" message when you click on this button.
- Getting Started
This will allow you to replay the Summer Shoals tutorial city site.
A list of people who helped make the game.
- Return to Main Menu
When in game, this will return you to the front menu screen where you can choose a saved game file, start a new game, or check the leaderboard.
- Quit SimCity
Exits the game.
Settings - Graphics
The graphics settings allow you to change how SimCity 5 looks on your monitor. Since all computers are different -- some are old, some are new, some have crappy graphics cards, some don't -- you have several options that you can fiddle with to give you a better looking game. As a general rule of thumb, if your computer is old or you have a cheap graphics card cause you're not a professional gamer, less is more -- meaning when you set everything to "less" you'll get a more fluid game.
- Screen Resolution
This option allows you to increase the number of pixels you can see on the screen. The higher the numbers, the more you can see. However, if your graphics card is older and incapable of handling the setting, the game could jump or crash entirely. If you have performance issues, consider jacking this setting down a notch. Also, your monitor has a certain frequency that it is tuned to (expressed in hz). The frequency you choose in the game should match that of your monitor or you may have problems.
- 1024x768 (60, 70, and 75hz)
- 1152x864 (60 and 75hz)
- 1280x720 (60 and 75hz)
- 1280x768 (60 and 75hz)
- 1280x800 (60 and 75hz)
- 1280x960 (60 and 75hz)
- 1280x1024 (60 and 75hz)
- Fullscreen (checkbox)
Determines whether the game plays in a moveable window or enlarges to consume your entire screen.
Increases or reduces the overall quality of light used in the game. Imagine that three lights were turned on at the same time in the room in which you are sitting. Each light would cast it's rays onto your body. Reducing or increases the "lighting" option changes the number of lights that are used by the game. Low will give you just one light (the overall ambient light) while ultra will calculate every light from every object, how they bounce off things, and where they all land. The higher this setting, the more calculations must be made by your graphics card.
Imagine someone you know is wearing a shirt. From far away, you can see that the shirt is red, but up close you can see that it has a little alligator and that the fabric appears to be some type of hemp. Texture is all about details. If you want to know what brand of clothing your Sims are wearing or read license plates -- you can't actually do either of these things in the game, I'm extrapolating -- then jack up the textures. Just know that the more texture you have in a scene, the slower it's going to be. If your graphics card is old or weak, stick with low textures so you don't grind your game to a halt.
Every light that strikes a building theoretically casts a shadow on the other side. That's elementary school stuff. But if three lights strike a building -- there should be three shadows. However, drawing all three shadows requires a lot of graphics, so if you don't care about maintaining true shadow casting, turn this one down so buildings only cast one main shadow. This is the only graphics option that you can turn off completely if you don't care about shadows at all.
Everything in the game has a particular shape. The more complex the shapes, the slower the game runs. You can increase or decrease the amount of geometry in the game using this option -- turning your buildings and people into simple cubes or marvelous replicas of anatomy and architecture. Sometimes, people like low geometry and high textures; other people like the reverse. Keeping them both high requires a really good graphics card.
- Animation Detail
Determines how much of your city is moving. Each Sim and car and house fire requires a certain amount of computer power to animate. Higher animation detail will add more moving Sims and cars and windy trees and make all their movements more fluid. Low animation detail will make them jerky but make the game as a whole significantly faster. Use low animation if you don't care about watching the little people on the ground.
- Tilt Shift
Makes the background blurry. Increase this to make your game look like something out of a Tim Burton movie; less to have your entire city in focus.
- Anti-aliasing (checkbox)
Smooths the edges of buildings, terrain, Sims, and everything else. Turning this off will make the game run faster, but you may notice (depending upon how much you care) upon closer inspection that the objects in the game don't seem to blend together just right. AA makes the game more "photo realistic".
- Framerate Cap
A video game is a movie that you can alter as it plays. Just like a movie, every second of gameplay has a certain number of frames (think photographs) that are drawn on the screen. A movie you watch on your DVD player is thirty frames per second (30FPS). Games are usually 60FPS, but games with lots of graphics (like SimCity) allow you to "dump down" to lower FPS settings to make the game run more smoothly. 30FPS is perfectly fine. Increasing to 60FPS is only something hardcore gamers insist on. "Off" allows the FPS to fluctuate depending on how complex the frames that have to be drawn become. For instance, if you have a lot of buildings on the screen at the same time, it takes more time to draw them all and the framerate will go down. When set to "off", the FPS may drop below thirty during times like this and you'll get jerky movement. When you cap the FPS, you tell the computer to sacrifice graphics quality to maintain that minimum level of frames per second.
- V-sync (checkbox)
V-sync uses the frequency of your monitor (which you set in the "screen resolution" option, see above) to determine frames per second. While on, it will allow your graphics hardware to automatically increase the number of frames per second above the cap as it sees fit, but won't go below the cap. If you turn this off, your graphics card will have an easier life but there is an outside chance that you may occasionally experience "tearing" -- imagine a photograph of a tree and you cut out the middle of the photograph and shift it slightly. Screen tearing occurs when the graphics card tries to work with tons of buildings and terrain at once but can't keep up. It also almost always occurs when you are moving your camera; so for a simulation game, it's not really that important. V-sync guarantees that screen tearing won't occur by making sure each frame is perfect before it is displayed.
- Brightness (slider)
Allows you to make the game visually brighter, lightening shadows and really making highlights sparkle. This is included because all monitors are different, so if for some reason your monitor is particularly dark or bright, you can increase or reduce this slider to compensate.
Filters apply a visual hue to the game, altering the colors of buildings, terrain, and other game assets. I cover filters and show screenshots in another post (see SimCity 191).
Settings - Audio
- Music Volume
Allows you to control how loud the background music plays.
- Effects Volume
Allows you to control how loud the honking, talking, stepping, building, and other game noises are.
- Mute All
You can turn down both of the above to minimum level or simply click the mute box to do the same thing.
Settings - Gameplay
- Always Display City Boundary
There is a white dotted line on the ground that shows you the edges of your city site. You can make that disappear for a more realistic look.
- Video Capture Resolution
When you press [V] while in game, you can videotape what is happening in your game for use later on YouTube or something like that. You have a low resolution option (YouTube size) and a high resolution option (Star Wars: Episode IV after they ruined it).
- Hide UI in Captured Videos and Snapshots (checkbox)
When you press [C] while in game, you can take a photograph of what's happening on screen. Whenever you capture what's going on as a photo or video, the buttons and menu options are also visible unless you uncheck this box.
- Planning Mode Camera (checkbox)
Not sure. It seems to add a slight elevation to your camera preventing it from reaching the ground. It may be broken or poorly conceived. It's definitely now what you think it would be, which is a camera in the sky that looks down on your city so you can -- you know -- plan better.
- Edge Scrolling (slider)
When the mouse approaches the edge of the screen, it can either pan the camera across the breadth of your city at dizzying speeds or slowly crawl from side to side for more control.
- Hide Speech Bubbles (checkbox)
Uncheck this if you don't care to get challenges from Sims.
- Hide Thought Bubbles (checkbox)
Uncheck this if you don't care to get opinions from Sims or know when they're about to set themselves on fire.
- Hide Origin Friend Avatars (checkbox)
When citizens from another city enters your city, a small icon hovers above their head letting you know that they are foreigners coming to steal jobs. You can prevent the hovering faces (or other body parts) from appearing and clogging up your screen.
- Save My Game Events to CityLog Feed (checkbox)
In the upper right-hand corner, there is the so-called CityLog which keeps everyone in your region (all the mayors) informed of what everyone else is doing. You can uncheck this box to prevent the things you do from being reported to your neighbors.
- Enable Mini Tutorials (checkbox)
Turns off the helpful hint boxes that pop up informing you of new things you haven't experienced yet. You can also reset all of the mini-tutorials if you want to start fresh and experience them all again or if someone new wants to play on your computer.
Graphics Options Screenshots
Here is episode 2 of my SimCity video blog. In this video I go through screenshots of the game, turning off and on various graphics settings, so that you can see and understand what each of them do.
This video is just over nine minutes long.
SPECIAL NOTE: Oh, in case you run into this problem in your own life... HAN SHOT FIRST!!!