It turns out for a lot of reasons, real city planning wasn't for me, though it took that degree and six years on my city's planning board to figure that out. Glacial speeds of progress, a job that's mostly reactionary instead of visionary, "stakeholders" with infinite time to tell you why any change is the worst thing in the world and a conspiratorial worldview - no thanks, I'll just go back to my sims.
https://logicmag.io/06-model-metropolis/ - which talks about simcity's inspiration from Jay Forrester's 'Urban Dynamics" and it's flaws.
Also, https://placesjournal.org/article/a-city-is-not-a-computer/ , which is something I've been meaning to read & contrast alongside Geoffrey West's works ( https://www.ted.com/talks/geoffrey_west_the_surprising_math_... ).
There's also a recent interview between an urban planner in portland (the citybeautiful youtube channel) and a developer at cities:skylines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c5pSCgbZ84
The articles are very disappointing though.
The first one claims that Jay Forrester's urban model was wrong, because it produces right-wing/libertarian results. I may disagree with libertarians too, but that's not how you criticize a scientific model. How about some concrete stuff?
The second article is just bland. It asks a very good question: what should we optimize for when constructing a city? And then proceeds talking about different things none of which helps to answer the original question. The only takeaway: a city must have a library. A good thought, but not an eye-opener.
There were no neighborhoods, no parks, no roads, no suburbs, and no racial or ethnic conflicts. - surely a simplification, but doesn't sound ideological.
Tax contributions of poor people are lower - well, again, this is probably a mathematical fact, rather than an ideological.
Some very fundamental examples of what's missing: Selective policing affects incarceration rates, neighborhood ethnic makeup affects city budgets which in turn affect land values and safety (Flint water crisis and other pollution) which in turn affect economic prospects and future tax income, what goes on in city A in terms of taxation and opportunities affects neighboring city B, it's assumed that traditional zoning policies generate the most land value which is incorrect in many cases, it ignores how public spending on infrastructure affects economic opportunities in the short an long term..
I do think that right-wing libertarians are wrong because they have a much simplified model of the world, that does not take into account all that you mention.
Scientists use simple models because they have technical constraints. Even more so for game designers who have to make a fun game while staying a bit realistic. They are biased, but not politically: they are biased technically, toward models that present a simplified model of the world that can be simulated reasonably.
It is easier to have a model of criminality where it is just a function of population density minus distance to police station than a multi-parameter model taking into account different social and ethnic makeup of the population.
But this is an interesting philosophical and actually scientific problem of the left: we do not have naively simplified models like the right has. Because free-market and capitalism are based on simple rules and an ideal but modelizable world.
This is also the reason why Adam Smith "The Wealth of Nations" had more success than his "Theory of Moral Sentiment" where he studies things like charity and non-selfish behaviors: the first one provides a mathematical model of how important variables change.
I would love to write a urban simulation that takes into account things like inclusiveness, corruption, inequalities but when it comes to actually code it, I don't know how to write a function of population growth based on that that would give results that make sense.
"Pop growth = 0.05% population * wealth factor" is much simpler. And when I think about it, I think that a leftist model is not a different model than a libertarian one, it is just a more complete one, I don't think a model that takes more humanitarian values into account can be as simple.
So please do not accuse every bias towards simplification of being a libertarian bias.
The problem isn't with simplicity for simplicty's sake. My concern is that we're making public policy decisions based on models that are plain wrong
With 2 or 3 differential equation, you can model the growth of a city and the densification of its center in a kinda realistic way. It gives you a baseline.
In such a model, population is a number. One way to look at it is to say that it has the assumption that everybody is equal, but another way to look at it is to say that we are averaging the population differences.
Such a model would fail at modelling some behaviors like the densification of some suburban island, would be totally oblivious to the creation of ghettos.
If the goal is to make a game, that can be enough. In some type of scientific or economic simulations they could be enough as well.
> The problem isn't with simplicity for simplicty's sake. My concern is that we're making public policy decisions based on models that are plain wrong
Models are, fortunately, not the only way to establish a fact-based policy. And far more complex models do exist taking more parameters into account.
I'm intrigued by this model in which the closer you are to a police station, the more crime there is. :D
Think of the number of extra user interface panels and gizmos and views and pop-ups and menus that users would have to wrangle in order to build, edit, query, visualize, and maintain 3D multiple story mixed use buildings in a city simulation, instead of having a simple 1:1 correspondence between space on the 2D map and zone type.
The closest thing SimCity comes to mixed use zoning is multi-layered Arcologies, and the interface to those is pretty complicated and unwieldy. Imagine if every building and skyscraper in the city were that complex!
Sim Tower supports mixed use zoning (with different discrete rooms in the same building), but just within one high rise tower, not a whole city. It's as much a game about pedestrian traffic, elevators, queuing and congestion, as an economic simulation.
The Sims is whole a game unto itself at a different level of abstraction, that lets you build multi-story residential and commercial buildings with walls, doors, windows, furniture, etc. But it doesn't simulate "urban dynamics" between zones, just "personal dynamics" between the people and the architecture and contents of the buildings. The Sims 3 was scaled up so you could seamlessly walk around small towns, but The Sims 4 went back to focusing on houses or apartments in individual lots or flats, instead of expanding to simulating entire cities.
It would be a very unpopular game, but there are people who would love it.
Or you can change the zoning into japanese zoning, where the UI can stay simple as you escalate the permission level of a zone. https://code.uberinternal.com/T2597239
I think the problem - in SimCity, Cities: Skylines, other video games, and real life - is that if you're building for aesthetics, there are many right answers, but if you're building for efficiency, there's only one right answer. The reason so many mid-size American cities have converged upon 1/4 acre lots with a road hierarchy, 3-lane boulevards, commercial strip malls on the boulevards, office parks, and freeways to link suburbs is that that's the most efficient way to satisfy the constraints of 2-3 child nuclear families who want privacy and a patch of greenery that's all their own and have varied destinations that each support too little traffic to be worth building mass transit to. The reason many megacities (I'm thinking particularly of NYC + Asian megacities like Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, etc.) have converged upon high-rise condominiums with street-level retail taking up whole city blocks with abundant bus & mass transit routes is because at a certain population density the suburban model ceases to work, and this becomes the only feasible way to move people to work & shopping. Interestingly, both models show up in Cities: Skylines, and the transition point between them is usually a painful inflection point in your city's development.
The quarter acre of manicured grass, the per-working adult car, the maximum occupancy limits, the minimum square footage requirements, zoning in general all work to keep the "riff raff" out economically.
Nothing about sprawl housing is efficient. Its almost maximally inefficient - you get the worst of everything, the traffic and congestion problems of density without any of the actual density because the people centralize on an urban core and surround it in extraordinarily wide expanses of cloned stick houses. But that inefficiency is baked in by design to push out those who cannot afford to participate in such inefficiency. You don't need gates on your community if the area is unlivable for the working poor for miles around.
I grew up in suburban New England. That's inefficiency - triangular acre lots, empty space with no road access, single-lane roads, three lefts that get you back to your starting location, driving to the next town (or New Hampshire, often) for the nearest commercial zone, the "Massachusetts left" because there's no protected left-turn lane at most intersections, major roads that terminate at a stop sign on a freeway where people routinely drive 85 mph. The suburban sprawl of Silicon Valley was a breath of fresh air by comparison - the lights on the 3-lane boulevards here are at least timed in rational ways with protected turn lanes.
Hell, they have traffic lights here - I grew up 2 houses down from the intersection of 3 state highways at a stop sign, and we fought for about a decade, fruitlessly, to get a traffic light and crosswalk there. It backs up for literally a mile in each direction during rush hour, and accidents are common.
This one efficient model you are talking about is merely the solution to one set of tradeoff decisions in your area, with other tradeoffs being chosen in other places.
Certain features were hard-coded specifically for surface street intersections. So you couldn't simulate a Kowloon Walled City level of density, unless you count the arcologies. The car assumption is as built in to the game as it is to real cities.
Power was supplied exclusively by perpetual-motion hydropower dams, enabled by the terraforming tools: flatten, raise land, add water, build dams on the falling-water squares.
Anyway, the point is that if city planners these days are simplifying their task anywhere near SimCity levels of abstraction, the ensuing disaster won't be one that can be selected from a pull-down menu.
Someone else posted the "General Motors streetcar conspiracy" already.
If anyone knows of any other city-building simulators worth mentioning, please let me know.
I feel the opposite.
I think SimCity's charm is just nostalgia. C:S is definitely more of a simulation, as it simulates individual vehicles, including commercial traffic. All the SimCity games before SC4 used a statistical model for traffic, and SC4's path finding was very unlikely to use highways and mass transit without a mod.
And with mods, you can make C:S look like a photo , or add outlights to make it look like Borderlands .
To me it didn't feel like there were many challenges or ways you could irreparable damage your city in City Skylines. You could maybe invent your own goals, like creating a specific look to your city or building the most density possible while maintaing efficient transportation. But that's what I'd consider sandbox: using your own creativity on a blank canvas with almost no chance of entering a complete failure mode you can't recover from.
The SimCity games felt more like they were a challenge needing to balance the budget and build a sustainable city all while being resilient to events like disasters. Might just be me, but I never felt like I could fail at C:S; whereas in SimCity you could make a few stupid decisions or expand too fast and start losing money, and all you could do is watch the city degenerate into a wasteland that can't be gotten out of (without cheating anyways). That made it feel more like a simulation.
This. The only times I've irreparably crashed a city in C:S is when I've been purposefully going for achievements like "<50% unemployment for 6 months".
An advanced city where most jobs are Co$$ and Co$$$ can actually be designed to have very little transportation needs at all because you can zone the high wealth commercial and residential buildings close to each other.
Simcity 4 definitely feels much deeper of a game to me than skylines, perhaps simply because it's complicated and I get a sense of joy figuring out the unintuitive parts.
Both of them are beautiful, but I think SimCity really is more polished, visually coherent, and better balanced than Cities: Skyline. Which makes it even more tragic and frustrating that SimCity limits you to such a small lot size, because one of the best things about earlier versions of SimCity was backing way up and looking across vast urban sprawls, every road and building which you created with your own hands!
What Cities: Skylines really got right was user modding and extensibility!
Maxis (before EA bought them) held some user focus groups while developing SimCity 2000, and asked SimCity users what they thought about additional "plug-in" content. (I don't remember how they framed it, whether they mentioned "downloadable" or "add-on packs" or "user created content"). But in general, the users were strongly against it, because they said they wanted to buy the whole game up front, and didn't want to feel like they were being nickel and dimed to get the entire experience. (And now here we are with free-to-play games with in-app purchases, alas.)
User created content and expansion packs were crucial to the success of The Sims, and users rightfully complained about being nickel and dimed by a long series of expansion packs. But the vast amount of free downloadable user created content that's available dwarfed the fixed number of items available in all the expansion packs (but you still had to buy the expansion packs to get the base objects and features (like pets or magic), in order to use any user created content cloned from those expansion objects).
I am eagerly anticipating Satisfactory, which looks like a first person Factorio.
I’ll have to look into Satisfactory!
That's your google keywords, there are modpacks but I don't remember the names. They are useful because the configuration is important though.
I don't recommend going the Seablock way right away.
Will Wright explained the motivation behind the vast oversimplifications he made in the design of SimCity, in "Will Wright on Designing User Interfaces to Simulation Games (1996)":
>Some muckety-muck architecture magazine was interviewing Will Wright about SimCity, and they asked him a question something like “which ontological urban paradigm most influenced your design of the simulator, the Exo-Hamiltonian Pattern Language Movement, or the Intra-Urban Deconstructionist Sub-Culture Hypothesis?” He replied, “I just kind of optimized for game play.”
Also, here's a talk about "Micropolis: Constructionist Educational Open Source SimCity" which discusses educational applications of SimCity:
The map editor only allowed basic logic in the form of conditions/actions, but soon some very smart people figured out how to compose this into more expressive logic. Big communities and clans formed around map making, standards were made, and eventually, super high-quality maps started to come out. Many people I know from that time are now successful programmers.
It may have been mostly trivial, but it did get you ready to dig into the internals of a program and not be afraid of big scary configuration pages and charts.
I remember being EXCITED when Warcraft III came out, and the huge upgrade in the map editor. Spent a whole summer making horde-mode style maps for WCIII. It was always SO EXCITING when you saw someone else playing the map you built!
But why on earth do they need six lanes per direction?
Pray I never get elected President.
When I was in high school I went to city counsel meetings, was active in youth in gov't, and even met the city manager. All because I loved playing SimCity for much. We never had a computer powerful enough to play SC2k so I saved and bought a Sega Saturn and the AT keyboard adapter and spent hours playing on that.
e.g. 9% personal income tax, 9% federal sales tax, and a 9% corporate tax.
1 - I'm aware of Lincity, OpenCity and OpenSC2k, but none of them are popular and/or are recreations, not full-up new city makers.
Most open source projects, at the worst, might involve UI design. And honestly you can see how bad that can get already when programmers start making their own interfaces without being "good" at it in most Xorg GUI apps.
That isn't to say there aren't communities around libre music, sound effects, game textures, models, etc - there are large vibrant communities around all of these. The problem with games in particular is that you need to reach across the aisle and involve people from all these niche libre communities to build something, and most of the time without the fundamentals fulfilled you won't be able to pitch or demonstrate a project enticing enough to attract participation.
Its a chicken and egg problem - you can't really get good artists if your game art is placeholder polygons, and you can't get someone working on the renderer until something is already rendering to the screen.
The lack of parking lots was always an obvious bias, though a reasonable game design choice considering the visual appeal. I remember when SimCity 4 modders started making more buildings with "correct" parking lots (and other scaling aspects), it was so contrastive with the built-ins that people often either rejected it, or worked to acquire enough custom buildings that they could turn off all the default ones, which required a pretty staggering number of assets.
Cities grow as you serve them with more mass transit, which maybe is more optimistic than real life, but on the other hand the game also teaches you that tearing up half the city to install a massive train yard is very expensive and will make local politicians furious with you, requiring you to bribe them with cash (or reforestation campaigns..) if you want to continue construction in their city.
Unfortunately it's missing subways, but the trams provided by community extensions are a pretty decent substitute.
It also teaches you that long routes are magically always more profitable. :P