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Video Game / Cities: Skylines

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Cities: Skylines is a city-building Simulation Game released in 2015 by Colossal Order and published by Paradox Interactive. Due to the lukewarm reception of 2013's SimCity (and Electronic Arts shutting down Maxis in the same month Skylines was published), many fans see Skylines as "what SimCity should have been". Skylines is single-player and doesn't require online access, with heavy emphasis on improved traffic AI.

Just like other city-building games, the player takes the role of a mayor, zoning industrial, residential and commercial areas in their city, managing budgets and infrastructure and expanding or reshaping the city to fit the citizens' needs. The game's "main" play mode unlocks various buildings and policies as the town grows, but the developers included mods which allow the player to have infinite money and unlock all buildings and services.


Multiple expansions have been released in the years following, adding new features and scenarios, as well as expanding and improving upon existing features:

  • After Dark (September 2015), introducing a day/night cycle to the game, as well as expanded options for tourism and leisure.
  • Snowfall (February 2016), adding weather and temperature effects.
  • Natural Disasters (November 2016), adding natural disasters and early warning/response systems as well as including radio stations for relaxing music and Parody Commercials.
  • Mass Transit (May 2017), introducing transit hubs and more methods of transport including ferries, cable cars, and blimps.
  • Green Cities (October 2017), adding eco-friendly buildings, electric cars, and various public services, as well as more options for specialized districts.
  • Parklife (May 2018), adding custom parks and gardens, including amusement parks, zoos, campsites and nature reserves.
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  • Industries (October 2018), expanding on the game's industry mechanics with more control over resource management, supply chains, and industry specialization.
  • Campus (May 2019), expanding on education with different types of colleges and universities, as well as museums and varsity sports.
  • Sunset Harbor (March 2020), adding a fishing industry and more options for water management, alongside further improvements on public transit and other services.
  • Airports (January 2022), expanding on air travel with new options for both passenger and cargo flights.
  • In addition, smaller pieces of Downloadable Content have been released periodically, including additional music for the in-game radio (such as Relaxation Station, Rock City Radio, and All That Jazz), or Content Creator Packs developed by members of the modding community (such as Art Deco, European Suburbia, and Modern Japan).

The game was released for the Xbox One in April 2017, with a PlayStation 4 release in August of the same year and a Nintendo Switch release in September 2018.

Not to be confused with Cities XL.

Tropes present in the game:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Unlike the vast majority of city sims, you can move buildings after placing them. It costs some money, but is a lot better than having to work around a poor decision as is the case in some games. Landfills and cemeteries can only be moved when they're emptied.
    • Although anyone familiar with Monster Moves or remembered that old The Brady Bunch special knows that even some large buildings can be moved, sometimes in pieces for reassembly, sometimes whole.
    • The entire supply chain system in the Industries expansion is massively simplified from actual industrial economies, and with logistics almost entirely carried out by truck rather than the actual transportation methods used by the industries represented.
    • Electric infrastructure: instead of having a series of transmission lines and transformers that allow buildings to tap into them, electricity can flow through buildings into neighboring buildings. In real life, this type of transmission would have a litany of problems, one of which being that if one building's power were to be disrupted somehow, it would cause the power in every other building in the same circuit to go out.
    • Incineration plants are a clean (albeit noisy) way to dispose of trash and create energy at the same time. In real life, burning trash releases very toxic substances such as dioxin and heavy metals that can contaminate the surrounding land and air.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Downplayed. One of the generic Chirper tweets has a citizen complaining about their domestic AI "behaving badly" and asks for tips on how to fix it.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: If a public service is unavailable, citizens will complain about it on Chirper. This includes if services are unavailable due to natural disasters... which can result in citizens complaining about not having access to water due to a tsunami that is currently heading towards their residence.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Just like in SimCity, residential, commercial, and industrial zones are green, blue, and yellow, respectively. Office zones are teal in color.
    • Transit lines come in numerous default colours, such as Orange for trains, blue for buses and green for metro.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • One of the in-game ships is called "Mariina II", after Mariina Hallikainen, Colossal Order's CEO.
    • Colossal Order's 'headquarters' make an appearance as an unlockable office building.
    • Paradox Games' logo also appears in the namesake Paradox Plaza.
  • Creator Provincialism: Snowfall is based on the Finnish winter.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Anyone who has played the SimCity games is going to be rudely surprised if they expect to play Cities: Skylines in the same manner. For example, the standard industrial zone spreads water pollution, so putting them next to residential zones will make your citizens sick. Then they have to go to the hospitals, which creates traffic...
  • Developers' Foresight: The developers remembered that dams can cause all kinds of problems, and all kinds of water-based horrors can happen if you aren't paying attention when you place your hydro-dam - or even if you are. It can take months, but it can still happen.
    • The game in general features realistic water flow. It sounds simple, but simulating realistic water flow is an amazingly difficult engineering feat that requires a working understanding of partial differential vectorial equations. This is actually one of the reasons why the game will refuse to run on Intel HD Graphics and will demand at the very least an AMD APU's built-in Radeon chip: because the game requires a GPU suitable not only for graphical output, but also for number crunching with Nvidia CUDA or AMD Stream.
  • Downloadable Content: As noted at the top of the page, the game has a lot of DLC packs. Some of which introduced features that many players thought should have been in the game at launch, leading to accusations of selling the game piecemeal to extract more money: Disasters, a genre staple since the original SimCity and which even EA weren't mercenary enough to lock behind a DLC paywall, cost almost half as much as the price of the base game. On the other hand, however, playing the game with DLCs is not recommended for newcomers, as each DLC adds a new gameplay mechanic that must be learned and mastered in order to make functional cities.
  • Early Game Hell: Specifically in regards to the Industries DLC. Industry Areas first become available after reaching the third milestone but are very expensive to establish and maintain at that stage of the game. It is possible to turn some profit even then, but relying on Industry Areas to satisfy early industrial demand will likely result in long periods of waiting for export income in order to build another industrial building and repeating until more residential and/or commercial demand is generated allowing for further city growth. Getting a unique factory up alleviates this somewhat but overall you are probably better off waiting a few more milestones and getting a larger tax base before going into Industry Areas.
  • Endless Game: You will not be removed from office should you register a budget deficit - new construction projects will simply become unavailable until you enter the positives again. However it can become a bit of an unrecoverable spiral if your income never recovers. The game does offer an interest-free $50,000 bail if you're going bankrupt but taking it disables achievements. Same with a victory condition, while it could be argued that building all of the monuments is an ultimate goal, it's like building enough arcologies to begin the exodus in SimCity 2000, it feels like an ultimate goal but is completely optional.
  • Fictional Social Network: Chirper is where your city's residents post their thoughts and feedback. The blue bird representing the social network also acts as the game's mascot, visible in menus, loading screens, and some special buildings. It is also a more modern take on SimCity's News Ticker.
  • Game Mod: The game wasn't just built with Steam's Games Workshop in mind; it has a few modding capabilities of its own, meaning even if you can't so much as program a calculator you will still be able to create your own buildings.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: You can actually rename literally anything in your city to your personal preferences; from buildings, to cars, to even the citizens. You can even rename roads and districts. While Sim City 4 had allowed you to name areas, roads, and most buildings, this most expansive list of renamable items was met with the grand tradition of player immaturity.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The monuments serve as this, each requiring you to build several Unique Buildings, each of which has its own requirements that require the player to do something quite bad for the city. As a reward, they can serve the entire city’s needs for that one function on their own.
  • In-Universe Game Clock:
    • Starting with the After Dark DLC, the game had a day/night cycle, and the days went by on the in-game calendar. However, multiple weeks would pass between a sunrise and sunset, and it could take a citizen many days to drive to work. One calendar day took only a few real-time seconds, but the game simulation ran in real time. Recent updates have somewhat changed this, as although days and nights cycle at a ratio of 1 second IRL to 1 minute in-game, the calendar now displays the day of the week and time (down to the minute!) the game is currently in, and vehicles tend to travel fast enough to feel like a normal commute.
    • Prior to those updates, when you started a new city, the date was set to the real-time current day, though it is not linked to the system clock afterwards. This meant that the game started on the date you started the save file on in real life, but progressed at game pace.
  • Kill It with Water: Cities: Skylines has very realistic water physics. This can wreak havoc, both unplanned and intentionally.
    • Rain can make riverside properties flood, even if they don't flood at any other time.
    • Dams, an expensive investment that once set up, bring clean and abundant energy, are a clear example of this trope:
      • Many a player has inundated their city by not planning for the dam's construction earlier on. Then again, some players do this deliberately.
      • Dam water can slosh about, and land that is marginally above the dam's maximum water level can get swept away by huge waves.
      • Demolishing or moving a dam releases a Giant Wall of Watery Doom that not only floods structures, but also demolishes those directly in its path.
      • Furthermore the Natural Disasters DLC includes the ability to trigger tsunamis at will.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Once you've installed several hundreds of mods and custom assets - and that's pretty average by the game community's standards - you'll get enough time to make and drink some coffee while the game is loading.
  • Low-Level Advantage: This used to be an factor, as buildings would grow taller and more complex as they leveled up so players trying to achieve a specific look would need to either cap leveling up on a building using a mod or avoid providing services to the area, thus avoiding buildings leveling up. Similarly the building policy High Rise ban caps level up to avoid buildings growing too tall. Averted with the Industries DLC, which offers the option of historical, allowing buildings to level up without changing its appearance.
  • Modern Stasis: From 2020 (the game starts at your computer's time) to the 23rd century or whenever, the architecture never changes. Mods in the Workshop allow you to change the architecture of the buildings.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Averted. Buildings will become abandoned but it's your choice either to demolish them or leave them be as they can wind up being re-used if demand for the zone the building is in becomes significant enough.
  • No Fair Cheating: Unfortunately, since neither Paradox, Colossal Order, nor the game itself have the capability to check what a mod actually does, using any mod period disables achievements just in case you're using a really cheaty one. There are mods to disable that, though...
  • Not in My Backyard!: Just like any other city builder game, choosing where to place your zones are important; ground and water pollution from industry and noise pollution from commercial areas and other sources are all taken into account. After Dark includes an actual "NIMBY" policy that shuts down leisure districts at night, reducing income while reducing noise pollution and traffic in exchange.
  • Parody Commercial: During breaks from any of your in-game radio stations, parodic and humorous ads featuring most of the in-game commercial companies in your city are displayed on the air in a very GTA-like fashion.
  • Permanent Elected Official: The player.
  • Real-Time with Pause
  • Scenery Porn: As good as you can get for a game with slightly bizarre architecture.
  • Spiritual Successor: To both the aforementioned SimCity and to Cities In Motion by the same company, especially as designing efficient transportation is a major focus in this game.
  • The Stoner: If you legalize recreational use of weed, expect Chirps about, ahem, blazing it.
  • Streamer-Friendly Mode: While most radio stations feature original in-house music that can be played without any issues with copyright-sensitive content platforms, one station features licensed music and is designed to be disabled if the game is being streamed.
  • Surprise Creepy: Whenever you start a new game, "Lehto Electronics" will play, which is a creepy atmospheric track which wouldn't sound out of place in a Silent Hill game
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The game's "Chirper" is pretty much Twitter, down to its logo being a blue bird.
    • The whole game is this to the SimCity franchise and Cities XL.
    • "Chirper" itself is also meant to be a more modern variation of SimCity 3000 and 4's News Ticker.
  • Tempting Fate: The scenario "By the Dam" has the description "A nice city. Next to a dam. What could happen? Hard difficulty." A meteor is due to strike the dam and flood your entire city unless you start building in the mountains fast.
  • Terrain Sculpting: The game comes with a built-in terrain editor, but it's impossible to modify the map after starting a city, at least without mods.
    • More recently, a landscaping tool has been patched in which allows you to alter the terrain to a degree while spending money.
    • One possible use of the landscaping tool is to build Dutch-style dikes in bodies of water. Once a section is closed off and the water pumped out (it'll evaporate on its own but a pump will speed things up), you're left with perfectly-usable ground to build on. There's almost never a reason to do this—the only time it's a semi-feasible strategy is the Marin Bay map to expand the smallish island you start on—but it was possible even before the addition of landscaping tools (albeit much more difficult). The reclaimed land even grows grass over time unless its a beach, meaning the developers expected someone to try it at some point.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay:
    • New players will probably be astonished by how complex the water physics are, and might well not discover this until they place a dam and find the uplands flooding.
    • The traffic modeling seems to follow the expectation that players know the basics of road hierarchy. Urban planners who play this game note that not following this is the reason why many cities grind to a halt before getting very far. And while the use of traffic mods do help, even in a vanilla version of the game knowing how to use the various roads properly tremendously helps with traffic flow. Of course, the game doesn't really tell you about this in an obvious way.
    • You're also expected to build public transit. Like many IRL cities that are permanently collapsed in traffic due to poor public transit, not having one in this game will make your city a dysfunctional gridlock.
    • A minor one, but vehicles in the game can vary their speed depending on the type of road and if they need to turn. For example, if a vehicle has to slow down to take a turn, this slows down the vehicles behind it. While this sounds like a case of captain obvious, most city builders prior to Skylines ignored this.
    • In general, Cim movement is based on how modern European cities do urban planning. That is, if you can make places accessible via walking, Cims will do that over taking some sort of vehicular transport. And if the destination is too far for them to walk or bike to, they'll consider public transportation over cars. If one tries to apply traditional American based urban planning (i.e., expects everyone to drive so just make big wide roads), this is what grinds cities to a halt.
  • Variable Mix: The game has two variations of the default score if you enable the day-night cycle with the After Dark DLC: a bright, upbeat version with strings that crescendo with great intensity once in a while during daytime, and a chiller, mellower variation with more brass instruments that plays during nighttime.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Enough to get its own page.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Some landmarks (and by that extension, wonders) require negative distinctions & milestones, such as having a high crime rate, garbage density, and cemeteries filled up. For example, unlocking the Grand Mall requires having no more than a 4% tax rate city-wide (which would quickly bankrupt your city) and maintain it at that level for 20 weeks.