Hints and Tips by 0rion79

Version: 1.1 | Updated: 06/08/09 | Printable Version

SimCity 4 - Deluxe Edition

		Essential hints for a successful gaming experience

Dear player, even if old, SC4 is the last, true SimCity game released until 
now, since all further games from Maxis just represent another kind of game.
Still "Sim" but not "City" anymore.

Even more, SC4 is still played and under development thanks to fans that are
producing mods and new buildings, so it is important to have a fresh guide
that helps new players to deal with the game.
This guide won't tell you the obvious but just will give you precious hints
about how to deal with the game


- The basics
  1 - requirements
  2 - customizing the game with unofficial fan releases
_ the goal
  1 - residential areas
  2 - commerce
  3 - industries
  4 - mass transit and traffic
  5 - general hints (11 essential advices)


First of all, for playing SC4 you need:

1 - A PC with a very fast CPU.
It doesn't matter if SC4 is an old game.
A Pentium III 500mhz, as suggested by Maxis, is simply not enough to deal with
SC4, since some sides as commuters path, are a heavy load even for modern CPUs.
In fact, a slow CPU may create some nasty bottle-neck effect, that will waste
your gaming experience and may "freeze" some game area. Even if buildings
should upgrade, they won't because the CPU is busy.

Even more, NEVER disable graphic options but boost all of them to the top.
Not only it gives you more satisfaction when playing, but it really does help
you with traffic congestions and with air pollution, since buildings built at
the lowest detail levels are (amazing) built WITHOUT trees!!
So, this will save your time, preventing from planting tons of them to fill
your city with green. Also, if you have a graphic card, this won't overload
your CPU.

2 - customizing the game with unofficial fan releases 
SC4, including Rush an hour, is far from being completed since it has some bugs
inside and misses essential buildings like bigger mass-transit stops.
Even if this guide will give you hints about the vanilla game, I highly
recommend downloading:

- CAM (Colossus add-on mod), which is a general game rebalance.
- NAM (Network add-on mod), which fixes and improves the commute time and
  streets capacity, originally just too severe and not realistic.
- Working landmarks, which makes landmarks working as commercial services
  or offices AND   giving a boost to mayor rating, making them useful.
- Industry “quadrupler”, that boost the working places offered by industries,
 since the   original ones are too few and not realistic.
- Bus and trucks stop mod, which will allow you to prevent busses and trucks
  from entering specific roads or streets in the game: very realistic and very
  useful to control traffic and air pollution.
- then seek for bigger rail and bus stations, better graphs, unofficial patches
  like  improved "power conservation act", "legalized gambling" and "lottery 
  ordinance", extra tools for dealing with garbage, radiation-free rewards and, 
  last but not least, "RTMT" (road-top mass transit stops) that is so useful
  when dealing with busses and subway.

Then spend some time to experiment with new structures and remove the ones
you feel useless, for a better screen visualization.
Search on internet, you will find them without any trouble.

A special note goes to CAM and NAM. CAM is very cool and will not only allow to
build cities with higher skyscrapers, but will also introduce some interesting
features that will really help you to play a more realistic and intuitive way.
(e.g., 5% of $$ Sims will work in dirty industry while, in vanilla game it is
reserved for $ Sims only)
Sadly, installing CAM may be a true pain since it needs special growable
buildings, called Cam-e-lots that will "upgrade" together with time, that must
be downloaded one by one together with models, textures and compatibility
"lots". They are really a lot and it is really an hard work, but it is really
worthy of.

Instead, if you are in short of time or just don't want the trouble of
downloading so many files, just don't use CAM and use the single MODS (as the
industry working places quadrupler) that will still work great but often are 
NOT compatible with CAM. My choice? I'm using CAM :)

Another mention goes for NAM: it will introduce a lot of news as street & rail
puzzle pieces that will help to greatly customize cities both in urban areas or
countryside. There are many options, but I suggest "simulator Z".

When you will be satisfied, finding whatever you want, it is a very good idea
to download "SimCity4 Tools" and "ILive reader" to customize the new add-on.
SC4 tools is very user-friendly but lightly limited, while ILive reader is less
intuitive to use but allows to add new proprieties to items and to export and
change original Maxis buildings.

The first thing that you may want to change is "item order" propriety so that
the new buildings will appear in a logic order into your game. Then you may
also want to change some budget monthly cost, since some of the new buildings
may be too cheap or too expensive. If a city is well done, you won't have any
need of cheating!!

Another thing that you may want to edit are the transit entries and exits for
mass transit stations. By default, they will allow Sims to enter from each of
the four cardinal points (N,W,E,S) while you may want to limit their entering
only from few of them, so Sims won't use them as shortcuts causing congestions.

Also, it is a good idea to check the "item groups" categories and turn all
subway stations into bus station, so that it won't show subway visual when
placing them, but standard one that can be combined with the one view.
This will help you a lot to place stops in the right place (see below).

Just one warning: if you change any building with variable monthly cost, as 
power plants or hospitals, be sure to demolish any previous version in your
cities first, or they will set the city category monthly budget to 0% wasting
your city forever.

The last step is to download DatPacker, that will compress your whole plug-in
folder, speeding up game experience, removing unused data and increasing game
stability. Do not pack the files that cannot be placed in sub-folders, or the
ones that you may want to remove (as alternative sea or ground textures, that
you may want to change for different maps) while it is better to pack in
single, separated files NAM, CAM main files, X-ports, RTMT and few others that
can be easily updated or that need to stay in a specific order inside the
plug-in queue (they usually have an alphabet letter before their name.
eg. a-CAM or z-CAM).
Always keep a copy of your uncompressed plug-in folder.

				What is the goal?

It depends from what you believe being "success". Having a lot of Sims, moneys
or having a city that is simply running fine, with great education, health and
mass transit system.

Still, there is one VERY IMPORTANT thing that must be know to not-USA players.
SC4 simulates cities in USA style!!! In Europe, we have the severe trouble of
free space and high-density population all at once, thing that does not happen
in USA. So, in SC4 it is possible to develop downtown areas (areas that are
completely dedicated to commerce) while commercial buildings and offices
DO NOT generate traffic as they do in Europe (where people moves where they
know that the commercial facilities are located) but they need to be located
were intense traffic already exists.

Then, there are two not so obvious matters.

First, SC4 represent an easier version of true life, so some things won't run
as they would in real life, but it is complex enough to NEED each kind of
available resident, commercial and industrial structure available in the game,
including farms, $ Sims and dirty industry.

Even if you can't see it, each building (especially working landmarks) will
create working places for all kind of Sims ($, $$ and $$$), so you need
even the pours to deliver mails or picking up garbage.

The best thing to do, so, is not dealing with taxes. Leave them as they are,
even up to 9.5, but don't lower them if you can't afford the loss of moneys.
This will help you to deal with demand, allowing $$$ Sims, offices, services
and industries to come only as much as needed. If you lower taxes and then
rise them again, you risk to see all $$$s to turn gray and downgrade to $$
or even $. Basically, each tax over 9.5 will lower demand to -100%.

Second, even if mass transit, including harbors and airports has some
maintenance cost, it represents a revenue source. All depends from
how many people do use it. So, build them when and where you believe
that they may be used and demolish them when they are not.

Now, let's see something in detail.

				1 - residential areas

Of course, they all want police and fire-fighters protection, good
education, health, clean air, and low traffic noise.
Some hints may be to create school-like areas where you place together all
kind of schools, including museums and libraries.
Those are absolutely essentials, since they help to keep education levels
high even when Sims end university. Do not build large schools until
requested, because they have higher range costs. For not-USA, remember
that BUS service is not an option, like in some European cities, where
many families bring children at school by car, but represent the effective
area coverage.

With Shift, ALT and CTRL you can give different directions and shapes when
zoning. Try experimenting with different combinations of shapes and density
and, especially, do not underestimate the value of mid and low density
residential areas (and commercial too): they will still pay taxes, will host
$$ and $$$ residents and will grant you less traffic congestion troubles,
criminality and other troubles connected with filled hospitals and schools.
If you are not expert, create only a very little high-density zone for
residents. And even if you are, high density residential zones should
represent only a small part of your city.

Try dividing the city into quarters and place each of those facilities in
each quarter. It is better in this way than building one single, huge facility.
Sims hate moving too much and they like having schools and hospitals near.

Then, place plazas and parks here and there and don't be afraid of placing
diagonal streets. Even if SC4 is based upon perpendicular streets, diagonal
ones makes the commute time shorter and generate some "free" space for minor
parks and bus/subway stops.
Do not forget playgrounds of any kind: they will help to reduce crime.

About mass-transit stops, if you are using NAM, I suggest you to build the
on-road "buss + subway" stops. Remember that they do not affect industries or
commercial buildings but they may prevent Sims from exiting their garages
if the bus stops are placed directly in front of the building "arrows" and
the stop is NOT smaller than the building itself.
   <  WRONG
_  _
B  < 
U  < "NO ROAD" ZOT will appear
S  <
_  _

_  <
B  <  
S  <
_  <

If you do the same with commercial or industrial areas, they will not give
the "no road" zot but, if they are small enough and the bus/subway stop is
right in front of them, it will prevent Sims from reaching that specific
working place, that will still pay taxes and run fine.

Remember to place at least bus stops near farms. Poor Sims usually can't
afford a car! And, if you are NOT using NAM, don't be afraid to sacrifice some
space, in use from residential areas, to create bus stops. You may eventually
fill it with plazas and parks, that you still need. Build stops approximately
each 8-10 squares and remember to build them on both sides if you are building
them on avenues, since they are working like two one-way streets, moving in
different directions.
Also, it is a very good idea, especially if you are using the vanilla game, to
build bus stops one step far away from the main streets or avenues and away
from corners because, due to a game bug, they will get congested not only
for the number of Sims using them but also for the traffic on adjacent roads
and streets. If you use Road-Top Mass transit 3.6 (RTMT 3.6) you should not
have this problem because stations will be big enough.

Another hint is about monorail. It is basically a mass transit way that rich
Sims like to use. Honestly, I've tried to use it and it helps, but it is a
risky investment and, still, an option, not a "must have".

About traffic noise, there is not much that you can do about it. It is for
quiet, low density places and the best that you can do is to keep your
residential areas at an average distance from commercial areas and avenues,
maybe dividing them with plazas and parks, that both zones need. The trouble
itself is that it doesn't matter the quantity of traffic that is passing
near streets or roads, but just the fact that a building is close to
whatever is different from a white street. You can't do otherwise because,
soon or later, they will get congested anyway.
Still, it is a good idea to start zoning using streets instead than roads,
and then "upgrade" them to one-way parallel streets to get rid of traffic
only where they are really needed. Still, be very careful about their

One last hint is to use one-way roads to split highways or avenues when
you want them to end in a "soft" way, instead than crossing them with 
other kind of roads or streets.

				2 - commerce

As told above, you need all of them, and they like traffic. Increase the land
value near them with mass-transit stops and plazas, trees to keep pollution
low and reduce crime. 
Still, it is a very good idea to make commercial areas of very different
size and density and to build even some commercial areas in low-traffic
Increase land value in some of them, and don't do it in other ones, because,
as told before, you need even medium-wealth commercial areas.

Even if traffic is very important, it is not the only condition. You can have
a good commercial or office zone in a quiet area that, instead, is enriched
with plazas, parks, beaches or landmarks: you can create vacation zones!

Also, connections with other cities and airports will increase your general
commercial demand so, even if you won't see "tourists" in the traffic, they
will be virtually present in your city.

I've also downloaded some plopable $ commercial buildings as huge discount
markets so that I can provide $ commercial jobs to my poor Sims, without the
risk that they will "upgrade" even if I don't want to.

				3 - industries.

Here, again, we need all of them. The only problem is that dirty and
manufacturing industry cause a lot of air pollution, that you can't fix except
with the expensive landmark "artificial tree" or cheats.

You need farms too: they may be beautiful to see and you can use
water-cleaning facilities to resolve their water pollution collateral effect
(weird that there is not any biological agricultural facility that does not
use pesticides!).

The best solution about industries is to prepare clean and high-wealth
zones for hi-tech industries near residential areas and to zone for
manufacturing and dirty near city borders.

Still, allowing the rising of all kind of industries in the same city may be
very tricky, because hi-tech industries are very sensible to air pollution. 
So, here are two solutions: since in SC4 there is a true demand relationship
between neighbour cities, zone for industry in small adjacent maps, providing
fast connections, and tax to 20% the ones that you don't want. Or use special
plopable industrial buildings to "fill" the dirty demand, so that kind of
industries won't grow when unwanted.

Anyway, dirty industry and farms also have one back draw: they need very
low-educated Sims (most likely not even elementary school) living very close.
Yes, you can have dirty industry growing in your city and paying taxes, but
you will see only trucks going out from them and no Sims going to work here.

				4 - mass transit & traffic.

You already know the basis for sure, but it is better to focus on some sides.

- elevated highways are just great for intersections with other roads, since
 they take less space but do not have any greater capacity or speed limit.
- for highways, if you need an exit only on one side, simply use the T-shape
  intersection, then connect it with an avenue or two one-way streets.
  Use perpendicular on-ramps only if you have built something on both sides.
  Also, use your imagination using NAM extra pieces to build bridges and
  other ways to take the opposite direction, as in true life.

- Avenues speed limit is not greater than common streets: they just have a
  greater capacity.
  If you have troubles about where placing bus stops, consider about building
  two parallel one-way streets with opposite directions and one blank line in
  the middle, to fill with open grass area, trees, paved areas AND 
  mass-transit stops. It will go fine for residential areas but not for
  commercial ones, since they care only about the traffic that is passing
  adjacent to them.

- remember to create crossroads on avenues, or dwellers won't be able to take
  the opposite driving direction.

- the best location where you may place a freight stations is near map edges
  or create a specific area for industries with only one exit and place the
  freight station at the beginning of that exit, to "intercept" the freight
  trucks. If you have got the truck blocks, it will greatly help to use 100%
  of your harbors and freight stations capacity.

- if one of your mass-transit stops goes over capacity, try to build a 
  bigger one if you can. otherwise, try to understand how the traffic flux
  is going, destroy that stop and build more of them in nearby locations,
  trying to split the work - much harder to do than to tell! :(

- when you have congestions on train lines, try building a different rail
  line for freight trains and another one for passengers (you should
  consider this from beginning when building high-density cities) and always
  leave one empty square among two parallel train lines.
  If you see only a train station turning red, destroy adjacent area and
  re-build it but placing the train station upon a deviation from the main
  rail line, else it will get congested - as for bus stops - for the traffic
  on the rail line and not for the passengers using the train station. After
  all, in real life too all non-terminal train stations are built in that way!

- when building your streets, remember that Sims are quite stupid. Without
  NAM, they will often take the shortest route and not the fastest so,
  even if it is normal in real life  to seek for highways instead than
  entering avenues and suffering for stops and traffic  lights, Sims will
  instead take all little streets and roads. Be sure then to destroy the
  connections that are leading Sims away from avenues, which are the best
  way to connect your road system with highways, with T intersections.
  This is caused because Maxis traffic simulation is more than fine but is set
  to a low precision degree because the game was meant to run upon Pentium III
  at 500 MHz and probably not even a NASA computer would be enough to
  calculate path-finding for each single sum! No surprise then that in vanilla
  game, Sims can't see their working place even if you place it in front of
  their flat or cottage!

- if you want to incentive mass transit use, do not build highways that are
  parallel to your mass transit lines. Also, you will always have some of
  your Sims, mainly rich ones and even medium wealth ones that will prefer
  cars, so building inter-city ground highways is a good idea. Also, you can
  build parallel roads and zone in the middle for commercial areas: Sims will
  go working into them from streets and roads, but commercial buildings will
  gain the benefits of the high traffic on highways.

- In vanilla game, but not with NAM, gray streets will get congested very
 easily due to engine limitations. In order to prevent this, you can only use
 them in low residential areas, among farms or as backyard connections.
 Also, they are more silent and cleaner than any other kind of road so, as long
 as they are nearby to a street (normal, one way or avenue), they are a good
 solution until when they get congested. 
 Sadly, there is not much that you can do for traffic noise in high-density 
 cities: try to lead trucks away from them, don't place residential areas too
 close to avenues and/or high-density commercial areas (lot of mess) and try to
 compensate with plazas, gardens and stuff. Avenues, highway and roads will
 cause noises by nature, no matter how many cars will use them, so, if Sims want
 quiet life, they shall go to live in a countryside where streets do not get

- if you wonder what is the best mass transit system, know this:
  . Bus is the slowest but also the cheapest, fine to connect small rural areas
    or to be placed in poor high-density quarters.
  . Train is a great compromise among costs and benefits: stations may also be
    a piece of art, it is very fast with a huge capacity and is ideal to
    connect both intra and inter-city areas. Also good for freights.
  . Subway is faster than bus but slower than train but, of course, it has
    the great benefit that it can be built underground.
  . Elevated train is just a subway that is going out from the ground. It has
    a meaning only if you want to create a special terminal or if you want to
    connect two different areas (inter-city or intra-city) where you plan of
    not building anything, because it is a bit cheaper and faster than subway.
  . Monorail is not only for rich Sims, but also is the fastest mass transit
    system ever. It is very expensive, easier to congest and is very difficult
    to locate in the city, even if you can always build two parallel one-way
    roads and place the monorail in the middle. Can be built as a ring or
    in a line that goes from terminal A to terminal B and vice-versa.

- also note that mass transit stops, harbors and airports are a revenue
  source: even if you have to pay for them, if you have enough customers, you
  shall have greater revenues than their upkeep costs but, if you are new to
  the game, it is possible that you will not see them in the management screen.


				5 - general hints

At this point, there is not much to say: just unleash your fantasy and do
whatever that you like more. I want to give you some extra advice:

1 - don't be afraid of destroying city quarters or changing zones from
 residential to commercial and vice versa.

2 - don't build anything that you can't afford or don't need. Especially,
 power plants or water. Lowering funds for plants is a trouble because it
 makes them to deteriorate faster, forcing you to buy a new one soon.
 Don't be afraid of building coal plants if they are well surrounded by
 trees and the pollution does not reach the city.

3 - wind power plants are good to give power to little islands or structures
 that request few energy. Not good at all for industries, which are the ones
 that drain most of the available power. Also, they age quickly.

4 - remember that each new city will affect the whole region demand: if you
 fill a huge  map with hi-tech industries, then you will see a low demand
 even in new cities as long as you won't have a new and strong, highly 
educated $$$ workforce.

5 - What I've written will even allow you to create a city which economy
 is completely based upon commercial facilities.

6 - you can even build a rich-only city, but then you must even build
 neighbor cities that provide medium and low wealth workforce. Use taxes
 to keep away the unwanted residents, but know that you will still need to
 give basic education and to build plazas and green parks even in your
 "Bronx", to attract a lot of low-wealth Sims.

7 - if you see the trade view in your region map, you'll see that airport
 and seaport routes will be effective with far away cities only if you
 establish new cities, creating  a path that connects all of them together.
 Otherwise, your commerce will stop at the edges of each single map,
 without any great result.

8 - a good way to grant a top demand for hi-tech industries is not only
 to create single maps dedicated to satisfy the other industries demand,
 but even a top-level education and a huge quantity of rich Sims will help
 a lot.

9 - DO NOT use cheats that boost your demand if you plan to switch them
 off later in the game. They will mess up the balance of your whole
 region, boosting even dirty industry demand that you don't want and
 generating more $$$ offices and services, that your economy will be
 unable to support. There are even $$ skyscrapers, so you don't need to
 have them all $$$ for a gorgeous city.

10 - some of the working landmarks may fill your commercial request,
 that may turn negative. Save before using them and, even better,
 build them from the beginning of the game, so that your economy will
 grow accordingly with those new values. They will pay taxes too!

11 - if you want, you may even use small maps in central locations to
 build a huge power plant complex, providing water and garbage treatment
 facilities for the other cities. It is a very "clean" solution that
 will free you from the need of building new plants and water pumps
 every "X" years. Loosing $$$ due to lack of water or power happens
 a bit too often and this solution fixes the problem.

12 - education and health micro-management may be something really
 frustrating. The hint is to rename those buildings for an easier
 finding, and to adjust funds only to RISE them.
 Education goes by cycles: since the Sims average age changes,
 even the number of Sims using elementary schools or college will
 eventually change, rising and dropping like this: /\/\/\/\/
 During one year, one elementary school may have 700 students,
 then, the next year, only 450. This is because the Sims grew up
 and went to high school but in the next years new Sims will
 be born and will be ready again for elementary schools.
 So, the best solution is to keep the funds to allow each
 single structure to support the highest number of students that
 has been recorded. I.e., if the top was 700 do not lower the
 funds to support no more than 450 students, because in the next years
 you will have to rise it again at 700, with the risk of making teachers
 and Sims angry and to lower your average education level.

13 - not all ordinances are "positive". E.g.: "youth curfew act" or "trash
 presort" ordinance will have a negative impact respectively on your
 residents and commerce and are just drastic solutions against crime or
 too much garbage.

14 - do not "fill" 100% of the map square. If you do, cities will just
 look like huge squares no matter what, and instead they are circular,
 may have a "star" shape or follow the main street (especially small,
 rural villages). Also, if the map borders are not 100% flat, it will
 also make much harder to merge one city border with the adjacent ones.
 Slopes can be a problem too: creating a rural area upon mountain is
 very difficult due to the game limits.
 Do not build 2 huge cities in adjacent map squares and, instead, fill
 the map squares that connect 2 huge cities with forests, lakes,
 vacation places, out-of-city industrial areas, farms or small villages.
 Whatever you like more.

15 - It is possible to try to reproduce real cities with SC4: the scale
 is: a small tile is 1 km on each side, so 64 squares = 1 km, or
 1 square = 15.625 m. but this may cause the "commuter loop" trouble.

16 - the "commuter loop" is a painful game bug that is caused when you
 connect 3 or more cities in a "ring" and the connections are very close
 to the city corners and not in the middle of it. Sims that live very
 nearby to the map edge with the connection to other cities will think
 that it is faster to find job moving to another city instead than
 searching for it in the actual map and there is the risk that they
 keep traveling from City1 to City2, then to city 3 and then back
 again to City1 because the connections are too close each other.
 This will congest a lot the whole mass transit system.
 To avoid this, place industrial and commercial areas along the street or
 highway that connects the cities, do not build residential areas nearby
 to map edges with connections and build connections more or less in
 the center of your map edges instead than near the corners.

17 - the same bug happens with ferries: use them only to connect two
 different city areas around a small lake instead than a bridge, better
 if on the same map, but do not use it on "rivers" because commuters
 will keep traveling from an harbor to the next one without really
 finding a job, but drastically increasing your commute time.

Mattia "Orion79" Loy