FAQ/Strategy Guide by super_luigi16

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    FAQ/Strategy Guide by super_luigi16

    Version: 1.52 | Updated: 09/12/13 | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide


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    I will post threads every time a guide is updated, a new guide is posted, a new review is posted, and other occasional updates on how my progress is going. If you want to stay up-to-date on the newest guides for Nintendo (et. al.) games, like my page! :)


    Get your simoleons, zoning permits, and construction crews ready--it's time to get city-building again! With the latest installment in the SimCity series, we're entering a globalized economy where our city is not alone. It is constantly being bombarded by pollution, resources, and exchanges with the surrounding cities and the Sim World itself. We find ourselves facing unprecedented challenges as mayors; however, with this challenge comes unprecedented opportunities and freedom. With so many risks, there sometimes comes a need for a little guidance, a little help, or a little information--that's where I come in. In order to navigate your way through this large, convoluted Sim World, you need to know what you're doing, or you'll be drowned in debt: it's as simple as that.

    Let's get you started with some general navigation!

    • You should notice the Table of Contents (TOC) to your right, so feel free to use that to skip to any particular section you want to look at. Since this guide is more freely constructed, this will most likely be your best friend :)
    • My suggestion is that you just read this guide in order, however, because this guide reads somewhat like a novella. I'm going to touch on all sorts of aspects in a specific way, so skipping ahead will increase the chances that you may not understand exactly what I'm saying. Regardless, read at your whim!
    • City-Building is your best destination for all things related to city-building, from Crisis Management to Starting Out.
    • Feel free to head to Contributing if you want to inform me about something I missed/misinterpreted/misrepresented in this guide.
    • Check out my website at http://superluigi16.webs.com to get in contact with me quickly. :)

    About the Guide

    This guide is full of strategies, not walkthroughs. I'm not going to give you very specific, step-by-step instructions on how to build a casino city. I'm not going to detail every single building and its possible upgrades--that's for another FAQ at another time. What this guide will do is that it will detail potential methods and strategies to get your coffers up, to fasttrack development, to increase revenues, to decrease expenditures, to take advantage of resources or opportunities, and to build the best city possible on your own. I don't want to hold your hand--I want you to learn how to build your cities how you want to build them, and I want you to learn how and when to experiment, if that so pleases you. I hope to make this guide an extensive strategy guide--not an exhaustive informational FAQ.

    About the Author

    Hello everyone! My name is super_luigi16, though I usually go by SL on GameFAQs. This is my first guide for the PC and my first guide for the SimCity series, though I have written half-a-dozen FAQs for other games on other systems before this. I usually keep to Nintendo games, but I thought I'd branch out and write for a game that I've loved to play since I was a kid. Hopefully all of those years of experience will make this guide the greatest it can possibly be. Regardless, I am American, so my spelling is localized (not localised!) to the American standard, and I will try to write somewhat lightheartedly, though I will keep the serious undertone for most of the guide. If you'd like to chat with me more about this game, or any of the other ones I've written for, feel free to visit my website at http://superluigi16.webs.com.

    Version 1.52

    Submitted September 12th, 2013

    Version 1.51

    Submitted April 2nd, 2013

    • Minor fixes.
    Version 1.50

    Submitted March 23rd, 2013

    Version 1.00

    Submitted March 17th, 2013

    Version 0.10

    Not Submitted

    • Section headers created
    • Basic information (mostly overviews) completed
    Version TBD

    Not Submitted

    Getting Started

    There are a few key elements to your city that absolutely need to be implemented, or you will not get to build much of anything. These boil down to two major categories--the zones (Residential Zones, Commercial Zones, Industrial Zones) and basic infrastructure (Basic Transportation and Essential Services). Without these elements, you will not get anywhere; this section is intended to help you both fundamentally and practically understand each of these aspects as they will be the key to your success. The next section in the guide--City-Building--is dedicated to Non-Essential Services and Making Money 201. Nevertheless, with this section, you should have a firm concept of each zone, the roads, and the primary services that you absolutely must have to function.

    So, these next few paragraphs will go over what I do cover in this first section. Firstly, the Controls are covered. This section is rather terse, given that there are only so many controls, that there are so many different PC setups, and that the game gives you a tutorial on how to move around. I tend to gloss over very basic, remedial facts; if it's well-covered in the tutorials, I will not give it much attention here.

    Anyway, after the Controls, I will move onto each of the RCI (Residential, Commercial, and Industrial) zones. Each of these sections is comprehensive; plainly put, I will not have another section on them. Everything I know or find pertinent for you to know about RCI zones is in those sections. I will cover how those zones increase in wealth, how those zones increase in density, how those zones interact with the other zones, and how to make them grow; however, do note that I will not cover the services, etc., that affect RCI zones until City-Building or City Specialization. In short, the sections about zones hold practically everything you want to know about zones.

    Basic Info About Zones

    As an aside, I do want to make some rudimentary points about zones. Firstly, zoning in SimCity is very much like zoning in real life. As the governing body for the city, you, the mayor, have control over what types of buildings are developed where:

    All zones in SimCity are free to create, unlike previous games. This also means that any density can spring up in your zones (if the appropriate Basic Transportation supports it; more on that later). It is also very easy to dezone and demolish, should you want to recreate an area. Zones are much more versatile in this game. Also, hold CTRL while zoning to fill in an entire zoning area. :)

    After the sections on zoning, I'll move onto Basic Transportation. By "Basic Transportation," I mean roads, roads, and more ROADS! While this section will be considerably shorter than the preceding sections, it is still VERY important. Roads determine the density of the buildings that can develop, and the layout of your roads can have a drastic impact on how well your city develops and how it develops in general. Note that this section does not cover mass transit; that is covered in City-Building in the Advanced Transportation Network section.

    Finally, I cover the so-called "Essential Services." These are the services that are required to get your city going in the first place--Power, Water, and Sewage. While there is another utility--Garbage--, it is not important until later. Those three services, Power, Water, and Sewage (PWS) are essential to your city's initial development. Everything about PWS is covered in their respective sections below, and, like zones, no further dedicated coverage is given later. These services are not complex to grasp, but their repercussions can be astounding with regards to pollution, crime, development, and other factors.


    Obviously the easiest setup is a mouse/keyboard combo. If this is your prefered method of control, most of your city-building will be move mouse, click. Here's the basic mouse/keyboard controls:

    Move MouseMove Cursor
    Right-ClickOften Nothing
    Left-Click + DragRotate Camera
    Right Click + DragMove Camera
    MousewheelZoom In/Out

    However, if you're playing on a laptop or enjoy your keyboard more, there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts. The following are adapated from the EA/Maxis Key Commands mini-manual.

    Time Controls
    [`]Pause Game[1]Turtle Speed
    [2]Gaxelle Speed[3]Cheetah Speed
    Camera Movements
    [A]/[<--]Move Left[D]/[-->]Move Right
    [W]/[UpArrow]Move Up[S]/[DownArrow]Move Down
    [E]Rotate Clockwise[Q]Rotate Counterclockwise
    [Z]Zoom In[X]Zoom Out
    Quick Commands
    [ESC]Exit Menu/Open Options[F1]Help Browser
    [C]Screen Capture[V]Video Capture
    Region Play
    [ENTER]Open Chat[BACKSPACE]Open Region View
    Road Tool Shortcuts
    [I]Straight Road[O]Circle Road
    [U]Curvy Road[H]Rectangle Road
    [J]Arc Road
    Road Tool Modifiers
    [SHIFT]Contain Road Type[ALT]Toggle Guides On/Off
    Open Palettes
    [E]Education[T]Mass Transit
    [U]Parks and Culture[B]Big Business

    At A Glance

    ProvidesWorkers; Consumbers
    UsesAll Services


    Residential Zones are your bread and butter. If you want your city to even be a city, you need the "R" in RCI. Residential is inherently linked with everything in your city: Sims demand services; Sims provide services; Sim demand places to shop; Sims work at stores and business; Sims demand goods; Sims produce goods. It is a very natural progression and relationship.

    The Basics

    Residential Zones provide homes for your Sims. Yep, it's as simple as that! Well, not really--we'll save the complex stuff for later, though. Residential zones are absolutely essential; services do not function without workers, industry does not function without workers, businesses do not function without workers, and your city does not function without workers. Hence, there is an inherent need for Residential in your city. You cannot function without the green.

    When you zone Residential, crews pull in from the highway (your connection to the global region) to start building houses. At first, you'll start out with low-wealth, low-density houses that look like trailer parks. After some investment, you can move up to apartment buildings and hi-rises in terms of density, and you can renovate from trailers to houses to mansions in terms of wealth. Residential allows Sims to move in and fill jobs at factories, businesses, and services. Do note that residential wealth tends to be pulled by commercial and industry wealth rather than vice-versa. Nevertheless, Residential forms the backbone of your city, and is the most important zone.


    Residential wealth is often determined by the other zones. If there are medium-wealth places to shop, medium-wealth residents will move in to to both (a) shop there and (b) take the retail jobs there. If there are medium-tech factories in town, medium-wealth residents will move in to take those jobs. Of course, there are plenty of other ambient factors that spur or hinder wealthier residents from moving. These include Pollution, Education, Parks and Recreation, Crime, and Transportation. Most of the correlations are obvious; for instance, pollution is bad for attracting high-wealth residents. A good general rule-of-thumb is N.I.M.B.Y: Not In My BackYard. If you wouldn't want a recycling center next door, why would your Sims want one? Same applies to the reverse--would you want a park next-door? Of course you would! (Never mind those pesky kids...). In general, that type of thinking applies to the wealth of your residents. Some factors are immediate; for example, adding a park will immediately increase the wealth of the surrounding abodes. However, things like adding a school or decreasing pollution will only gradually bring up residential wealth. Higher wealth residents are more finicky.

    It is very difficult to raise land value to high-wealth levels; this requires plenty of high-wealth Parks, and plenty of other services that high-wealth residents demand. Usually, these residents will move in regardless of whether the necessary services are being provided; they inherently follow land value. Services are necessary for increasing the density of medium- and high-wealth residences--for more on that, see Happiness below.

    For reference, you can chack out the Land Value layer to see good wealth influences and bad wealth influences.

    Land Value layer. Dark Blue = $$$; Light Blue = $


    Density of residential buildings is contingent on happiness. Usually, happiness follows the same criteria was Wealth did. However, happiness is more subjective--residents like places to shop, places to play (parks), and they don't like it when they're sick with germs or jobless. Happiness is a lot of common-sense, to be honest.

    The main culprits of unhappiness are services; if a Sim--especially a high-wealth Sim--does not have access to the necessary services, they will complain, and they will get unhappy. Furthermore, if they have no way to enjoy life--by either going to parks or shopping--they will also get unhappy. Some occurrences have drastic effects on the happiness of your Sims; these include services like PWS, Garbage, and joblessness. Other services drain your Sims and will drag down an otherwise accelerating happiness factor; these include things like germs (Health), Police coverage, places to shop/play, and pollution. Happiness tends to rise as the services enumerated above are sustained over time.

    The Residential layer.


    Residential is the most vital zone in both your region and your city. Everything--everything--in your region needs workers. You cannot continue to build your city without residential. Your Sims can then go out and fill jobs at their corresponding wealth; low-wealth Sims fill low-wealth jobs, and so on. Whenever you zone Commercial or Industry, Residential demand will rise so that Sims can fill those jobs. Furthermore, Workers also need goods to fulfill their daily needs; Sims also happen to be shoppers. Commercial demand will rise as Sims move in because these Sims need to buy goods. You know where this is going--Commercial zones need Industry. All of the zones are connected. Pay attention to your RCI demand. Government buildings also need workers, by the way.

    There also seems to be a discrepensy between your population and the number of Sims that actually work. While you may have a healthy population of about 150000, only about one-fourth of those Sims seem to go to work or even seem to exist. So, while the logical proportion of Sims in your city would be R = C + I, it tends to be R > C + I. You should zone a lot more Residential to meet your worker needs, especially if you plan to have high-density buildings with job openings.

    At A Glance

    ProvidesJobs; Market
    UsesFreight; Traffic; Essential Services; Workers


    Commercial Zones are very simple. Once you've got a population of Sims, they'll want goods, and they'll provide both the workers and the shoppers needed to run said shops. Tourism can boost the number of shoppers, and commuters can boost the number of workers. Commercial zones are not as finicky as Residential zones in that they only need a basic level of Non-Essential Services.

    The Basics

    Commercial allows the goods that are produced by the Industrial Zones to be sold to the consumers of your city--the Residential Zones. Think of Commerical as the intermediate zone; it becomes more important in market economies that rely on finance and the distribution of the hypothetical "services." Think New York City or Frankfurt. Anyway, Commercial also offers jobs for Residential and a market for the freight produced by Industrial. Again, Commercial serves as the intermediate here.

    The blue zone generally starts out with small, low-density, low-wealth flea shops. These can be built up to medium-density, medium-wealth department stores and eventually high-wealth, high-density skyscraper/office buildings. Of course, there's also everything in between--small high-wealth offices and large slummy shops. Commercial provides jobs for Sims in Residential and provides a preliminary market to your Industrial; however, to get your Commercial to grow, you need an Industrial base or established Commercial amalgamation and a Residential pool to pull from for workers. Businesses need the Essential Services, a customer flow, and other factors (e.g. traffic) to truly flourish.


    Commercial wealth is driven by customers; if there are no customers for high-wealth shops, these high-wealth shops will close down and move out. There are a few other factors that determine the wealth of your shops, but it mostly comes down to the wealth of the customers shopping there. Low-wealth shoppers spur low-wealth shops.

    So, while the wealth of your consumers primarily determines the wealth of Commercial Zones, there are other factors. Firstly, traffic and tourism: if you have more tourists and more traffic passing through your Commercial Zones, different wealths of tourists/shoppers can pass by. If you have enough medium-wealth tourists visiting, medium-wealth shops will start to spring up. The same applies to commuting Sims. Secondly, many of the factors that affect Residential--crime, fire protection, illness, and beautification--also affect Commercial, though to a lower extent. They are factors, but they aren't going to make or break a wealth. Finally, workers: you need to have adequate workers for your medium-wealth skyscraper. If you don't, the skyscraper will remodel to a wealth where there are workers (after a fair deal of advisor nagging, of course).


    Remember how I said wealth was mostly determined by the wealth of the shopper? Well, density inherently relies on the volume--the amount--of said wealth of shoppers. If you only have a few high-wealth shoppers, your high-wealth shops will not have enough revenue--and, hence, enough happiness--to increase density. Of course, there are a variety of factors, but they are mostly peripheral. Simply make sure your shops have access to basic services and a sustained workforce, and that will maintain happiness for the most part. What will increase the happiness of your shops is the flow of shoppers dropping by. This goes hand-in-hand with traffic and tourism, as aforementioned. Hence, the one lesson to take away with Commercial Zones is the following: Commercial zones need plenty of shoppers, workers, and only remedial access to basic services to thrive.

    The Commercial layer.

    Relation to City Specialization

    Tourism. Note it's relation to the commercial zones.

    Commercial is not related to the more industrial City Specialization (e.g., oil drilling, coal mining, and electronics), but tourism and gambling are inherently linked to Commercial zone health! Hence, if you're trying to build up a Tourism empire, zone tons of Commercial to capitalize on the money flying into your city. Furthermore, Gambling acts in the same way. Also, commercial acts as a good buffer between the traffic-ridden tourist destinations or the crime-ridden gambling halls.

    At A Glance

    ProvidesFreight; Jobs
    UsesEssential Services; Workers; "Tech"


    Industry is the easiest zone to deal with. Rarely do they have problems that require your special attention; they only require basic services and markets for freight. Tech is the nuanced requirement with industry, but it relies upon the basic premise that an educated workforce can more capably work for high-tech industries. Industry is intricately linked to some of the City Specializations and Education.

    The Basics

    Industrial produces freight for sale in Commercial and offers available jobs for Residential. Industry is the second-most important zone as it grows more easily and quickly than Commercial at the beginning of the game. However, as your city progresses, Industry usually falls to the wayside as a market becomes established. Nevertheless, Industry will employ far more Sims at the beginning of your city's establishment. Industrial also maintains steady demand toward the beginnning of your city's establishment.

    Industry usually comes in two forms: polluting factories and high-tech factories. Of course, the former is undesirable--furthermore, Industrial is the only zone that inherently adds to air pollution. The yellow zone is also the easiest to advance to the highest density; however, getting high-tech industry requires a sustained commitment to Education, though more on that later. Industry demand can be facilitated by opening up more connections to the region, ergo letting more freight reach the market. Read more on Trading as a City Specialization.


    Tech is the big factor when it comes to whether you're getting gleaming high-tech factories or polluting sweatshops. Tech is realistically only determined by Education: educated workforce to "skilled" workforce to high-tech industries. However, simply plopping a few elementary schools will not suffice. Only two buildings dramatically affect Tech: the Community College and the University. Obviously the latter is the granddaddy of "Tech," and placing a University will be more than enough to get your Tech level all the way up. However, I won't cover all of the intricacies of the University and Community College here; check out their respective sections in the Education section. There are a few other buildings that positively influence Tech--for instance, Wind and Solar Power Plants--but alone they will not increase high-tech demand.

    A sample Tech layer. This area is mostly high-tech factories.

    However, "Tech" only emanates from the above buildings in a locality. Basically, if you have your university in one corner of the city and your industry in the other corner, the Tech created by the University will not reach your industry effectively. The industry will not really go high-tech.

    Finally, high-tech industries require a high-wealth workforce, for the most part. Demand for high-wealth residents will antecede the presence of high-tech industry, though; however, to supplant the growth of your high-tech industries, you need plenty of high-wealth, educated residents to work there. Yet this usually comes naturally when building high-wealth buildings like the University; simply place some high-wealth parks (plazas and the like), and you should be fine.


    Industrial buildings only care about two things (and one way more than the other): freight and basic services. The former is the more important one. Basically, if industrial buildings have access to the essentials--namely water, power, and sewage--happiness increases will be sustained. However, what really makes industry happy is markets for its products. This basically means that you need to have markets to sell your freight to--this can be through Trading, through local use (i.e., through Commercial zones), or through shipment to other cities in the region. Nonetheless, getting industry happy is as simple as keeping your zones proportioned correctly; this gives industry markets to sell, allowing them profits, and allows them to expand. Usually, getting high-density industrial zones is simply a matter of waiting.

    The industry layer. Note the heavy emphasis on freight.

    Relation to City Specialization

    Generally, it's a good idea to have your industry match your City Specialization; for instance, if you want to go into coal mining or oil drilling, you'll want to stick with dirty industries. Your workforce for the specialized industries will be similar to the workforce for your industries in this instance. The other obvious connection is electronics manufacturing and other high-tech industries: matching up these two is optimal due to their similar workforce. The other city specializations are not inherently linked to industry, though.


    Basic Transportation covers all things related to getting your transportation up and running: roads, roads, and roads. I will cover everything from the Road Tools to the beginnings of upgrading your roads; however, I will not cover Mass Transportation as that is a necessary element of bigger cities. Anyway, roads are very finicky. They cause lots of problems, and they are one of the hardest aspects of SimCity to master. Fortunately, you have me to help you!

    The Beginnings of Roads

    Roads are absolutely necessary. Seriously. You cannot start building your city until you build roads that connect to the highway, allowing access to the Sim global economy and region. Once you make that connection, you can start developing. Of course, it isn't that easy. Roads determine how your city will function; without adequate road connections, Sims cannot get to work, get to stores, get to services, or get home. Hence, there is another inherent (I seem to be using that word a lot in Getting Started...) need to create a practical transportation network early. Of course, you're not presented with all transportation options available; subsequently, this section is Basic Transportation as opposed to the Advanced Transportation Network, which is later. This section will cover the roads available from the beginning and how to structure them; the other section will cover unlockable transportation structures and the development of a mass transit network.

    Road Layout

    In SimCity, there are multiple different modes for laying out roads. Of course, these different road-laying tools have different purposes and varying degrees of usefulness. Certain tools can conserve space, and other tools can waste space. In the small city plot we start out with, we absolutely need to use every square-inch (centimeter) of space. If you don't mind wasting space, you can use more road tools to create a more "artistic" city. Yes, there are tools that are relegated to the "artistic" designation. You'll come to meet them as I go through the road tools in the next few paragraphs. And, as per my infatuation with showing you how things work in-game, there will be plenty of pictures :)

    Square Tool

    I decided to start with this road tool because it is the most useful, and I will be recommending its use the most. No other road tool can conserve space like this road tool. (However, technically, there is a better way to conserve space. I won't touch on it in this guide because it creates massive traffic headaches). Anyway, so the square tool is the easiest and the best tool to use for desinging your cities. The square tool can give you geometrically sound layouts like the following that I used in my city:

    Note the lack of wasted space.

    When you first start out, the game will provide you with dashed white lines. These are "guides" and will guide you to the correct road proportions. I highly recommend that you use these. There are differing sizes of guides (it varies based off of whether the road is an avenue or a street), but I recommend that you generally follow the street size. HOWEVER, it is not particularly important that the squares all be the same size (see the above picture). Unless, of course, you're going for maximum efficiency. If you are, here's how I recommend you build your roads:

    • Here's my starting position. I have my main avenue through the middle, and I'm holding the road on the right using the SQUARE tool. See the guides parallel with the avenue? Well, those are nice and all, but those aren't the size we're looking for.

    Starting out with some perpendicular roads.
    • After that first road, more guides appeared, giving me the distance I want between roads. I built up those guides (you can see the dashed lines through the roads themselves) to create a series of parallel streets.

    Still not getting the street parallel to the avenue, though...
    • Now for the fun part: if you hold SHIFT while you drag the square tool up those guided lines, it will create a perfect square. Start from an empty perpendicular guide line, and drag toward a road that's already there: you should get a perfect square like the one below.

    Woohoo! Now I can start creating small perfect squares!
    • Now the guide lines perpendicular to the avenue are accurate to those little squares. Hence, I can fill in this entire area with small squares.

    Success! These squares fit one skyscraper/hi-rise exactly!

    Now, for industrial zones, you'll want to have larger rectangles. Basically, you want to delete every other road in one direction to give you long rectangles (for instance, in the picture above, I would delete the street between the avenue and the uppermost street parallel to the avenue). Industrial buildings are slightly larger than regular old skyscrapers.

    The square tool is the BEST. The other tools should only be used when (a) there is a bug/glitch with the square tool (FAQ), (b) you need to conform to the land feature, or (c) you want to be artistic in your road design.

    Straight Line Tool

    The Straight Line tool works good as a Square tool replacement when the Square tool is buggy; however, the straight line tool can be cumbersome to use. I recommend only using it in the aforementioned situation, or when you want a perfect 45-degree angle from an existing road. The Straight Line tool is just that: it will create a perfectly straight road. However, you can get them at weird angles that are not optimal for city development:

    Look at all of that wasted space at that intersection! *shudder*

    However, if you hold down the SHIFT key while drawing your road, it will force either a perfect 90-degree angle...

    BEHOLD! The right angle!

    ...or a 45-degree angle...

    This is the only tool that makes a perfect 45-degree angle from scratch.

    Of course, the latter is amazingly useful when you want to maintain uniformity whilst adapting to the landscape. For instance, in the above picture, I'm able to keep the road at good, solid angles while also hugging the cliffs to the south more effectively. This is the main use of the Straight Line tool. However, if the Square Tool is giving you crap at a specific intersection, you can simply hold shift and use the straight line tool along the guide to get the same amazing geometric perfection.

    Curve Tool

    The Curve tool is the second most useless tool in all of SimCity. Not only is it awkward to use, but curved roads waste TONS of space. You should only use them for artistic purposes, or when attempting to grapple with areas that are not well suited by squares and stacked 45-degree angle connections (see below). However, even then, these roads are MONSTROUS wastes of space. You should really use curved roads when you're trying to be all cool with your road design (i.e., put a bend in your main avenue). Again, do realize that said curvy-ness wastes space that could otherwise be developed. Also, SHIFT does nothing with the Curvy tool.

    The curvy tool is not optimal in many cases. This is an exception.

    Wavy Tool

    This is the WORST tool. You must promise me to NEVER, EVER USE IT EVER. The Wavy tool basically allows you to freely create your road. While this seems cool and all, it is a TERRIBLE idea for effective planning. I hate to say it, but your drawing skills are not geometric. Hence, you're left with awkward shapes like the one I created below. Also, SHIFT allows you to create a stretch of straight road in your otherwise jumbled mess. Wavy tools are occasionally necessary for building roads up slopes, but this is very rare and still unadvisable.


    Circle Tool

    This is, in my opinion, the coolest tool for artistic flair. See the picture to the right to see what I'm talking about! Anyway, circles, like curves, waste a lot of space. However, circles are slightly more useful in that they can create roundabout. In SimCity, you can only create four-way intersections. Hence, more advanced intersections, such as six-way, are a no-go. But, with circles, you can circumvent (pun intended!) this problem. Observe!

    Bridges are awesome!

    You have to toy around with it to get it to look better...

    Holding SHIFT with the Circle tool creates a perfect circle on an ideal landscape.

    Hence, road tools are your greatest asset in the war on city-building. When used correctly, you can create a truly efficient city that capitalizes on artistic flair from time-to-time. Used ineffectively, you can cripple your road system (more on that below). Nevertheless, building the perfect city road system is much easier in this game than in other games past (I'm looking at you, SimCity 4!). Finally, one last note--bridges and tunnels are automatically created and factored into the road cost when you build them. Happy road building!

    Streets and Avenues

    SimCity has a few road choices this time around, and they can be broadly grouped into two types: streets and avenues. The former are smaller and only take up one hypothetical tile. The latter are larger and take up two hypothetical tiles in terms of width. The larger width for the latter is formed by the barrier between the two ways. Each type has their own merits, and I'll go through the two of them thoroughly.


    These are the bread-and-butter of your city. Nearly every non-major road should be a street of some kind; they are smaller and allow you more space to actually allow development. Streets range from dirt paths to high-density roads: there is a road for each density. If you're using the Square tool, you should use these to make each of the smaller blocks that constitute your city.


    Avenues are larger, but they make up for this easily with their mass-transit capabilities. Avenues only range from medium- to high-density, but high-density avenues can support streetcar lines down the middle of the road. Hence, you can create a mass transit system alongside your road system; however, more on that later. Avenues act as both good connections to the main highway (they're the same width) and good arteries through which to funnel traffic throughout your city. Use avenues sparingly, though, as they can be expensive.

    Building Your Road System

    Roads are your biggest investment when you're first starting out, and only Power rivals the initial down payment. However, this varies WILDLY depending on which roads you start out with. If you start out with dirt roads, you can easily fill up your entire city with your initial funds. If you start with high-density streetcar avenues, you will run out of funds in about ten seconds. But, if you do create a dirt road system, your city will not be able to handle the impending growth. Hence, it is vital you strike a good balance between your initial investment and the strength of your starting road network.

    So, starting out in your city, you'll likely have a connection to the highway that just stops at the edge of your city. (There are a few cities where the highway actually runs THROUGH your city; in this case, skip this first step.) You'll want to extend this first slab of road out a fair amount; I highly recommend you put down the investment to place a medium-density avenue, as these are high-volume roads that easily connect to the highway. I recommend that you extend your avenue about halfway through the city, landform-permitting. Try to curve the avenue around landforms (or over/through them) if you need to.

    After this, I usually find it easiest to determine where you want each of your types of zones to go. While this is highly variable based off of City Specialization, it's a good idea to figure out (a) where your resources are and (b) where you want your zones. For instance, if your resources that you want to extract are concentrated in one quadrant of your city, zone your industrial around there. Moreover, if you're going to zone your industrial there, choose the wider rectangles to allow for complete expansion.

    The ore mines are interspersed with industry.

    Other parts of your city should mostly be the perfect squares I outlined above. These allow your city to be rather efficient with regards to traffic AND development. However, I do recommend that you do keep some larger rectangles (or even squares) open for service buildings. Many of your service buildings will require lots of space to expand into, so create some larger areas for these buildings to go. All of the starting roads should be low-density streets. The only exception would be major arterial roadways that need more volume to handle traffic--go medium-density on those. Once you've got your initial starting roads, feel free to start zoning and start making money.


    It's usually a good idea to segregate your zoning. It's also usually a good idea to have your commercial interspersed in your residential and to use your service buildings as a buffer between residential and industrial (unless, of course, you're going for high-tech industry). There are many reasons for these general zone layouts, including proximity to work, distance from polluters, among others.

    Thanks to azzaron for a correction with regards to zoning.

    Growing Your Road System

    After a bit of developing, you've probably got a city that's mostly full, and you're wondering how to continue building your city. Well, that's where road upgrades and finishing touches come in. Firstly, let's talk about upgrades.

    If your city is doing well, you'll probably see zones clamoring for better roads to increase density. For example:

    "Upgrade roads to increase density"

    Increasing the road's quality will allow you to get bigger buildings like the apartment buildings that you see in the background. Go to the roads menu, and click on the little starburst arrow button to improve your road from a low-density street to a medium-density street. I increased the quality of all surrounding roads, and look what happened:

    Presto! An apartment building is being constructed!

    Road upgrading isn't cheap, though. It costs about $500 for each street surrounding one of these squares. However, it's well worth it, considering you can start generating more taxes from these larger buildings. That doesn't mean that you should upgrade every road though. Check out the density layer to see which buildings are ready to expand:

    All the places in the middle are ready to expand. The businesses in the foreground are not.

    Build your road network up wisely to increase revenues. For more on your road system and mass transit, see the Advanced Transportation Network section.

    Essential Services

    While the classification of "essential" and "non-essential" services is somewhat arbitrary, there is a basic difference between these two classes. One is absolutely necessary to the foundation of your city; the other, while important to the growth of your city, is not absolutely necessary. For more on services that aren't covered in this section (i.e. Education, etc.), please see the Non-Essential Services section.


    Your city absolutely cannot function without PWS (Power, Water, and Sewage). If you do not implement these services, blackouts, droughts, and backflow will persist. If you let those problems persist, your city will not grow. Hell, it will not even start! Hence, PWS has its own section dedicated to their construction, upkeep, and growth. Each section here is comprehensive with regards to the subject matter. Do note that Power does tie into City Specialization a bit with regards to the Solar Power Plant. Regardless, this section will appear very similar to Essential Services later on.

    The Department of Utilities unlocks the following in this section:

    • Solar Power Plant
    • Nuclear Power Plant
    • Water Pumping Station
    • Sewage Treatment Plant


    There is no service that is more important than Power. Seriously. Your city cannot function without power. You absolutely must have power flowing through your city, or your city frankly will not develop. Furthermore, your other services will shut down without adequate power reserves. Hence, having a thriving power network is necessary. While there are few options for power when you first start out--coal, wind, and oil--these can be expanded by adding a Department of Utilities at your City Hall. This section will cover the general idea of a power grid and later each of the power plants available.

    The Grid

    "The Grid," as I colloquially put it, is your power grid. Basically, it's how power is distributed throughout your entire city. There's a specific layer that shows how power is flowing throughout your city. However, the most useful element for measuring power consumption is the little meter on the power menu. This meter tells you the current state of your power excess/deficit. Generally, this is a good gauge to keep track of your power needs. Check on these two layers from time-to-time to monitor their progress. As your power needs grow, expand your existing power plant. If your power needs are getting to be far too much for your current power plant, place a new plant that can handle the power load more effectively.

    The Power layer. Yellow = Powered; Red = Unpowered

    Wind Power

    NameCostPower GeneratedMaintenance
    Wind Power Plant80003MW @ 10mph80/hr
    NameCostPower GeneratedMaintenance
    Service Road0N/A0
    Small Horizontal Turbine50003MW @ 10mph40/hr
    Large Horizontal Turbine100005.1MW @ 10mph60/hr
    Vertical Turbine2000015MW @ 10mph170/hr

    An example Wind Power Plant

    Wind Power is frankly the weakest type of power out there. Not only is it weak, but it also takes up an insane amount of space if you want to get an effective amount of power out of your power plant. Hence, I don't really recommend wind unless you plan on making a high-tech city. Even then, it's highly recommended that you upgrade to Solar or Nuclear once that becomes financially feasible. Wind Power emits no pollution.

    Anyway, Wind Power Plants need plenty of room for expansion, so make sure you have room toward the back to allow for the service road. Once you need to expand, simply plop the service road out the back and start building Large Horizontal Turbines. Also, wind works best in the windiest of cities (10+ mph), so make sure you have the required renewable resource before investing in wind. Moreover, Wind Power Plants marginally increase the tech of the surrounding area; however, solar and nuclear plants are more effective in this regard. Finally, even the Vertical Turbine isn't worth the time, effort, or space to build the Wind Power Plant.

    Coal Power

    NameCostPower GeneratedBurn RateAir Pollution RateMaintenance
    Coal Power Plant1700075MW4.3tons/dayHigh450/hr
    NameCostPower GeneratedBurn RateAir Pollution RateMaintenance
    Dirty Coal Generator500075MW4.3tons/dayHigh425/hr
    Advanced Coal Generator1500075MW8.6tons/dayMedium375/hr
    Clean Coal Generator2000075MW5.8tons/dayLow600/hr

    An example of a Coal Power Plant

    As you can tell, Coal is the big polluter of the factories. It simply pollutes and pollutes and pollutes as it eats through the coal you import/mine. However, Coal is the cheapest form of energy per megawatt produced that you first have access to, and it is the prefered choice for coal-producing cities. If you really don't care about the pollution produced by a coal plant because "Goddamnit, this is a mining town!" then turn to coal for all of your energy needs. I highly recommend coal if your specializing in metals.

    Remember--pollution blows in the direction of the wind. Hence, it's likely best to place your Coal Power Plant in a corner of the city where the pollution will either blow into more dirty industry or blow out to other cities (y'know, if you're sadistic like that). Make sure to leave a little room for expansion, and you should be golden. Coal Power Plants don't need any other support other than a steady supply of coal. If you're not producing coal in your city, be sure to turn on "Accept Global Deliveries" to allow your power plant to continue functioning. Also, when it comes time to expand, don't worry about ponying up the extra money for the cleaner generators; the ol' dirty ones should be fine, given your preference for coal in the first place. More pollution can't hurt, right?

    Oil Power

    NameCostPower GeneratedBurn RateAir Pollution RateMaintenance
    Oil Power Plant275000150MW864000barrels/dayHigh856/hr
    NameCostPower GeneratedBurn RateAir Pollution RateMaintenance
    Conventional Oil Generator7500150MW36000barrels/dayHigh756/hr
    Combustion Turbine Generator20000150MW12000barrels/dayMedium1185/hr
    Clean Oil Generator27000150MW24000barrels/dayLow1295/hr

    An example Oil Power Plant

    Oil Power Plants are very similar to Coal Power Plants: you use a non-renewable resource to generate power in huge quantities whilst releasing a noxious amount of pollution. Oil Power Plants are a tad bit more efficient, but they cost a lot more--both in the initial investment and the upkeep thereof. The investment for an Oil Power Plant is well worth a bond if you're planning on establishing an oil-specialized city. The constant flow of oil allows you to easily maintain your power plant. However, in other cities, I'd have to recommend coal over oil for the following reasons: coal is cheaper to start with, coal is cheaper to maintain, coal is cheaper to import, and coal is easy to remove for a cleaner alternative later.

    If you do plan to go with oil, you won't need that much space to build and expand. Simply leave a little room on the back end and you should be fine. Unlike coal, I recommend you expand with the more expensive and cleaner expansions; this is because those expansions (a) take less oil and (b) produce less pollution. Considering you're already spending 750/hr on the regular generator, you can manage the extra 500/hr for a clean or combustion generator.

    Solar Power

    NameCostPower GeneratedMaintenance
    Solar Power Plant330008MW/hr145/hr
    NameCostPower GeneratedMaintenance
    Fixed Solar Array1600012.1MW/hr105/hr
    Concentrated Solar Array4000037.5MW/hr320/hr

    An example Solar Power Plant

    Solar Power Plants are the space-eating cousin of the Wind Power Plant. The basic Solar Power Plant upgrade takes as much space as a Large Turbine and produces about the same amount of power--so, why go Solar? Well, if you've researched the Concentrated Solar Array at your University, it is very much worth it to go Solar. Otherwise, you'll wanna go to Nuclear, or stick with your polluting mess of a power plant.

    Nuclear Power

    NameCostPower GeneratedMaintenance
    Nuclear Power Plant145000200MW1300/hr
    Gen I Thermal Reactor45000200MW1200/hr
    Gen II Thermal Reactor75000400MW2300/hr
    Fast Neutron Reactor130000600MW3200/hr

    An example of a small Nuclear Power Plant

    Nuclear Power is, in my opinion, the most attractive of the five power options--especially for high-tech, high-education cities. Nuclear Power consumes no resources, and generates an insane amount of power at about the same cost as a Oil Power Plant. Furthermore, Nuclear Power, at an ideal setting, generates no pollution of any kind. However, there is one major catch about Nuclear Power Plants--radiation. Nuclear Power Plants emit radiation only when staffed by uneducated workers. With an educated workforce, Nuclear Power Plants are the way to go.

    So, let's talk about that Education problem first. If you're city is pumping out high-tech factories and has a good University, Community College, and High School, you're more than ready for a Nuclear Power Plant. If you want to learn more about improving your education system, check out its section. Thus, an educated workforce is basically a must-have for a Nuclear Power Plant; otherwise, you'll jeopardize your entire city with radiation contamination. We don't want any three-eyed llamas, now do we?

    If you feel confident in your workforce, build the power plant. You'll want to find a spot where you can expand the power plant either through the back or through the sides. Each reactor is cheap--though expensive to maintain--and it will produce a huge amount of energy. Feel free to research the two more advanced reactors if you have the time, but the first one should be more than enough for your electricity needs.