The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Sim City 4

Neighbour Connections

Sim City 4 introduces the concept of urban development on a regional level, rather than that of an individual city, and as such allows for both resources and demand to be shared with neighbouring cities. However, this process is a little more challenging than it initially appears offers a new and exciting experience. For instance, cities can be planned to consist entirely of residential and commercial districts, with neighbouring cities acting as industrial parks. The basics are simple: for demand to be shared, the most effective way is to start a city from the edge, where it allows citizens to easily travel between the two cities.

The neighbour deals mechanism has been modified from that of its predecessor: the mayor must take the initiative to initialise them. This can be done in the budget menu; once the neighbour deals is selected, if the proper connections are made, resources can be sent between cities. It is imperative for appropriate connections to exist between cities: for commutes, roads, avenues, highways and mass transit options are required. Roads also permit refuse deals to be made if the proper disposal facilities exist in the neighbouring cities. Power deals can be made only through power line connections, and simiarly, water deals can only be made if water mains link the two cities. For instance, if City A has sufficient water and water mains conntected to City B, then B can buy water off A. When one returns to City A, a small income is generated by the sales of water.

Nostalgia and Loan Management

My earliest experiences with an online community was when I actively designed and built cities in Sim City 4. One site in particular stood out to me: written by “SimCityFreak”, it was a Freewebs site that eventually inspired me to build my own website. At the height of its popularity, it netted around 1000 hits per month and presented a the region he was working on at the time. However, his site eventually became overwhelmed by traffic and was unable to host any more images. While SimCityFreak’s site only lasted six months, it was one of the only well-written, clean sites out there for Sim City 4 techniques. Since his website had become inactive, it has succumbed to spammers, and today, feels as empty as a ghost town. That’s enough of the trip down memory lane: today, I consider an ancient topic that some may find useful: the proper usage of loans in a city. I certainly don’t play Sim City 4 anymore (well, not to the same frequency I used to 7 years ago), but these tips have been collecting virtual dust on my hard drive. They’re not going to do much good there, hence the motivation to share them for any Sim City 4 players still out there.

When it was first introduced, the financial system in SimCity 4 saw an increase in complexity from its predecessors, as every building incurred a countinuous monthly expense; this has the end result of increasing the expenditure a city has and making it much harder to earn money. Some players used loans as a short term means of prolonging their city’s lifespan, in turn leading to a vicious cycle as the loans need to be repaid, and ultimately resulting in the repayment of previous loans with new loans.

This factor is what deters most from using loans, although when used properly, they can improve the development of a city. Suppose that a town gets an income of §1,000 per month (§12,000 per year), and that this is a growing town that’s beginning to use high desnity zones. When one considers that the average-sized high density zone can cost about §50,000 or more, there are two viable options: either wait four years in-game, or take out a loan. A §50,000 loan has a monthly cost of §619, so one would be left with §381 per month. This allows one to remain in the black and build the zones to futher income; by the time the loan is paid back, the city would likely have an income greater than §1,000 a month, and having a return of §619, which translates to an income nearly of §2,000 monthly, in addition to seeing improved development in the town.

Many assumptions are made in the example above, and should anything go wrong, the consequences would damage the city’s coffers dramatically. Such a worst case justifies why loans need to be planned. In the general case, loans are most suitable if the pay-out now is likely to result in a reasonable return later down the road. That is, using loans to build zones is acceptable, while using loans to build infrastructure would result in a net loss; aside from being costly, the latter increase a city’s monthly expenses and make a loan more difficult to pay off, which in turn increases the risk that a city’s finances dip into the red. Conversely, careful management of loans can bolster the development of a city, and allow it to prosper.

Sim City 4 Stage Caps

Stage Caps are a new concept introduced in SC4 that attempts to make the simulator more realistic. It will not allow medium and high density buildings of a certain zone and wealth type to be built until a certain population of that zone is reached.

In other words, until your residential or commercial office population (of a certain wealth class) reaches 1,114; you will see no medium density developments. Likewise, you will need to achieve a population of 25,952 before any high density buildings are constructed.

Commercial service developers will first build medium density buildings at a commercial service population (of, again, a certain wealth level) of 1,114 jobs, and high density buildings will be constructed at a commercial service job population of 15,356.

Industry will build high density buildings at a job population of 2,447. These figures are from the official strategy guide; the entire regional population (for the specific developer type) applies to these stage caps.

Hence, if you want to see high-density high-wealth residential developments, you will need a high-wealth residential population (not a global residential population) of 25,952 citizens.

Improving a city’s environment in SC4

To ensure that a city enjoys lower pollution levels, the simple act of planting a large  number of trees will achieve these results. It’s relatively inexpensive relative to the pay-offs that are possible: for instance, once trees were placed in one of my manufacturing districts, and they immediately converted to high-tech.

The tree tool offered by God Mode is the most efficient way of doing this, as it allows for the immediate seeding of mature trees over a wide area. It seems the more active tree planting is, the more likely it is that High-Tech industry will develop in that area. The benefits towards planting trees also serve to expand the wealth of new commercial and residential developments, although the effects are not as profound as it is on the industrial sector.

Toll booths

The proper use of toll booths allow for a significant amount of money to be made; their usage is fairly straightforward. Commuters usually travel from residential to industrial, or residential to commercial. Therefore, placement of toll booths on the correct route will yield financial returns at the expense of increasing commute times by a small margin.

The key here is to connect the residential and industrial zones by building a ground highway, ensuring this is the only route between the two districts. Next, place avenues at the ends of the highways, and connect them. Finally, place toll booths all along the ground highway. The same process may be followed with respect to residential and commercial zones. Then comes the amusing part: simply wait a few months (in-game), and check the city’s income. The income from tolls will be significant, as long as the commuters have to take that highway to work, they will pay a huge amount in tolls. A properly configured network will yield more money from tolls than one might make through residential taxes. Buses have to pay the tolls, as well, but as they are less likely to create congestion than cars, they can negotiate alternate routes (around the toll booth) more easily than cars. This is why proper set-up of the network is crucial; to ensure maximum profit, bus routes should be forced along the route with toll booths. If the highway becomes congested, simply build another one, set up the tolls, and connect it to the same avenue. Build bus stations to reduce congestion, and make more money at the same time.

It is preferable to use ground highways because they are inexpensive, and highway toll booths handle the most amount of commuters. Furthermore, commuters drive the fastest on highways, increasing the maximum volume of citizens that will be able to get to work. A good highway can have 8 tolls, which returns around $1.60/month for every car or bus passenger that needs to travel on that highway: on a tolled highway, commuters pay 10 cents on the way to work, and 10 cents on the way back. Toll booths cost $5 a month to maintain: once traffic levels increase to 50 cars/month, the cost is compensated for easily.

Despite these potential benefits, toll booths add up to the citizen’s commute time quickly. If the citizens have a commute time exceeding 100 minutes, they’ll start to lose their jobs, and leave town. While it is still possible get a reasonable amount of income, some structures may become abandoned. This isn’t a major problem on a small or medium map, but may potentially have far-reaching consequences on a regional scale.