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What makes a good City Builder game?


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#1 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 02:36 PM

I've played/enjoyed a few City Building games, and I'm considering building one now.  What do you think makes a good City Builder?

 

Here's a few basics I can think of, what do you think should be added or edited?  Or just in general, what have you really enjoyed?

 

1) Simple rewards over time, Money for doing things.the question is how fast.

2) Tasks lists.   Can do more than one thing.

3) Tech trees.  I.e.  can't have an armory without a black smith.  Need farmers before making a farmer's market.

4) Need resources: Coal, Wood, Iron, Food, Soldiers, Weapons.

5) Prepare defensive military: soldiers, etc...


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#2 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6332

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:03 PM

I thought you were making an RTS?

Your definition looks a lot like the Stronghold series, but that's a very specific subset of city-builders that are more accurately part of RTS too.

Sim City would be a better definition of a City Builder "by the book".



#3 WildField   Members   -  Reputation: 296

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:12 PM

Measures of the city: pollution, crime rate, richness, happiness, so on. That's if you are planning for a sandbox game.



#4 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:12 PM

I thought you were making an RTS?

 

The game is intended to feature a stand alone City Builder as your Home city.  Safe, constantly improving and give benefits to the other parts of the game.  However, I want to make sure I'm really hitting good things about this area by itself.  It should be self sufficiently fun on its own, and I'm hoping for good ideas to shape it.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#5 Reavermyst   Members   -  Reputation: 133

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 06:33 PM

I've played/enjoyed a few City Building games, and I'm considering building one now.  What do you think makes a good City Builder?

 

Here's a few basics I can think of, what do you think should be added or edited?  Or just in general, what have you really enjoyed?

 

1) Simple rewards over time, Money for doing things.the question is how fast.

2) Tasks lists.   Can do more than one thing.

3) Tech trees.  I.e.  can't have an armory without a black smith.  Need farmers before making a farmer's market.

4) Need resources: Coal, Wood, Iron, Food, Soldiers, Weapons.

5) Prepare defensive military: soldiers, etc...

 

 

I thought you were making an RTS?

 

 

The game is intended to feature a stand alone City Builder as your Home city.  Safe, constantly improving and give benefits to the other parts of the game.  However, I want to make sure I'm really hitting good things about this area by itself.  It should be self sufficiently fun on its own, and I'm hoping for good ideas to shape it.

 

 

There is a game with a similar feature, and it's predecessors had a similar mechanic, where your capital city was customization both in upgrades and cosmetics.  I'm talking about the Age of Empires Games, more notably the third installment and Age of Empires Online.  The third installment was simple and you only had a few buildings to upgrade that influence tech costs.  Age of Empires Online lets you place key buildings anywhere on a separate map, essentially letting you design your city and use key buildings to manage your tech tree, unit equipment, and materials for crafting.  Both of which are pretty small metagames as opposed to being a major mechanic as all it is essentially is an over-dramatic menu system.

 

One city builder I found to be pretty good was Cities XL.  The game itself was okay but the ideas in it's mechanics promoted strategic play due to it's economics, where you have to manage the trade of surplus between cities to influence their economies differently.

 

(I.E. City A has a bunch of farms so they produce more Food and City B has more Office Labor since it has more offices and trade between each other)

 

If you're going for an RTS kind of game like AoE online, I would personally like to see a city builder like Simcity or Cities XL for my capital city.  But, it needs to be able to interact with the game world constantly.  Let the things you do in the RTS element influence things like trade and bonuses to certain areas like completing a mission gives you a surplus of industry good which gives a bonus to commercial demand or simple cash rewards that allow you to build more housing developments.



#6 jwezorek   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1606

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 07:03 PM

What makes a good city builder game, or any kind of x builder game, i guess, is when the simulation is rich enough that it exhibits unexpected emergent behavior. This is the quality that made cities in Sim City feel like they were alive. However, by its nature, this is not really helpful advice, because you can't just say, "Almost done ... now to hook up the emergent behavior module."

Edited by jwezorek, 10 January 2013 - 07:05 PM.


#7 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4680

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 07:27 PM

City Builder game I've always enjoyed was SimCity for the SNES. I liked it even more than SimCity for the PC.


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#8 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 27668

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 07:42 PM

What makes a good city builder game, or any kind of x builder game, i guess, is when the simulation is rich enough that it exhibits unexpected emergent behavior.

This ^ is what, for me, made Sim City 4 (or any other version) a vastly better game than Cities XL or SimCity-Societies, etc -- in the former, your city comes to life indirectly from your outlines/plans, and in the latter group the city is directly built by your command.

 

That kind of emergent behaviour makes any city builder fun for me. You need unforeseen consequences and fluctuations and interactions of many simple systems leading to larger complex systems that aren't directly controlled. Whether it's central-business-districts appearing in places you didn't plan, because you mis-managed the traffic flows, or whether it's your decree of forced clay-mining and an abundance of brick-furnaces upsetting the local market and causing all the villages to upgrade their houses while starving...



#9 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 08:57 PM

I would personally like to see a city builder like Simcity or Cities XL for my capital city.  But, it needs to be able to interact with the game world constantly.

 

That is definately the plan.  perhaps not simcity completely, but closer to sim city than Empire .  but a bit of both I imagine.  I hadn't really considered it to be too close of a clone to Simcity, but that could be nice, to have a bit more feature coverage from there.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#10 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 08:58 PM

Let the things you do in the RTS element influence things like trade and bonuses to certain areas like completing a mission gives you a surplus of industry good which gives a bonus to commercial demand or simple cash rewards that allow you to build more housing developments.

 

Definitely, I'm planning on the tactical games to tie in to rewards and such, and there are some things you only get by completing battles.

Or directing the wars.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#11 Reavermyst   Members   -  Reputation: 133

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 01:45 AM

I would personally like to see a city builder like Simcity or Cities XL for my capital city.  But, it needs to be able to interact with the game world constantly.

 

 

That is definately the plan.  perhaps not simcity completely, but closer to sim city than Empire .  but a bit of both I imagine.  I hadn't really considered it to be too close of a clone to Simcity, but that could be nice, to have a bit more feature coverage from there.

 

 

Let the things you do in the RTS element influence things like trade and bonuses to certain areas like completing a mission gives you a surplus of industry good which gives a bonus to commercial demand or simple cash rewards that allow you to build more housing developments.

 

 

Definitely, I'm planning on the tactical games to tie in to rewards and such, and there are some things you only get by completing battles.

Or directing the wars.

 

 

Sounds like an awesome combination.  If I had to reiterate, I'd say add the un-expected nature of SimCity and the economic strategy of Cities XL into your City Builder element. 



#12 Unduli   Members   -  Reputation: 755

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 06:48 AM

When it comes to city building genre, I believe Simcity 4 set bar extremely high even Simcity 5 can't compete.

 

But seems you more mention of Impression games type ones like Pharaoh , Caesar , Kleopatra etc.



#13 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 07:53 AM

I just did a review of a bunch of city builder games and what my initial impression of them was.  (always seems like a good idea when designing another of the same Genre)  Here are some notes.  Please feel free to comment on these or add your own reviews as well.  If you add a review of a different city builder, please include a video link of possible (trailer of the game or something), but not needed.  Of course, this is all still focused around the original question of "What makes a good City Builder?"  

 

 

Poor handling.  Handling needs to be good.
 
Electro city was fun, but limited, a little hard to use/understand the value of actions.  Make actions easy to understand. Use AI to present good choices.
 
IBM CityOne, didn't try, but the video looked interesting.  Was required to sign up prior to playing, and used a lot of fields.  was detured when the other games are letting me try it without any data ties.
 
Zanpo, Very creative, mine craft like almost,
 - too much to do with too little understanding to start.  
 - not very obvious,
 - some block handling wasn't easy.
 
CityVille, good start, little childish.
 - Easy drag drop of cit view.
 - plenty of things suggesting the next thing to do.  
 - OVER KILL on the notifications.  Perhaps just one task bar.  But should have a task bar.
 - I did find myself playing this one a little longer, but definitely notification overkill.  perhaps too much screen activity in general, 
 - Also ran a bit slow compared to others.  
 
 
I immediately gathered that
 - movement should be easier, controlling drag drop/map positioning.  
 - menuing and icon purpose should be clear.  No need to be too creative, when general icon shapes exist for many games like it that are established and reused already.
 - Construction needs to be simple to understand
 - Multiple tasks at a time are good.
 - Don't hog the screen unless it is vital.  Use a side bar for managing information updates and tips.
 - Don't use a tutorial, as much as In game wizards that get you started, in the form of visual tips.
 - Don't require users to fill out huge amounts of info before trying the game.  Allow them to start without logging in.  at least to a certain point, before requiring signup.  Then make the signup light weight, fast and easy.  
 
This doesn't account for in game strategy of tweaking overhead variables to get vastly different effects with the lower level filters/AI's.  

If I had to reiterate, I'd say add the un-expected nature of SimCity and the economic strategy of Cities XL into your City Builder element. 

I.e putting a park in residential makes the residential richer.  putting residential next to industrial will remain cheap housing, most likely apartments/other rentals.  and of course the many ideas presented so far.
 

Edited by hpdvs2, 10 January 2013 - 07:54 AM.

Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

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Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#14 Unduli   Members   -  Reputation: 755

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 02:31 PM

If you intend to integrate this to RTS (or vice versa) I think you should start with compromises when making a seamless integration.

 

This is why I think Impression games style is more suited, although the primary reason of why I adore SC4 is micromanagement, you should avoid too much detail imo.

 

It is manageable in a game solely made for it but if you integrate other genres, it becomes more of burden. I don't know you , but I even can't handle farms in AoE in time when having a noticable fight.



#15 Reavermyst   Members   -  Reputation: 133

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 03:27 PM

If you intend to integrate this to RTS (or vice versa) I think you should start with compromises when making a seamless integration.

This is why I think Impression games style is more suited, although the primary reason of why I adore SC4 is micromanagement, you should avoid too much detail imo.

It is manageable in a game solely made for it but if you integrate other genres, it becomes more of burden. I don't know you , but I even can't handle farms in AoE in time when having a noticable fight.
I think he means to make the city simulator element more of a meta game that serves a major purpose in the effectiveness of the RTS mechanics. You are right though, the idea of making the City Sim merge seamlessly with the RTS portion is a rather daunting idea. My aspiring goal is to create a game that's high in depth and complexity, but simple enough for a vast majority to pick up. As long as the mechanics are simple enough to understand, the general idea of the game becomes less stressful.

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Edited by Reavermyst, 10 January 2013 - 03:29 PM.


#16 DtCarrot   Members   -  Reputation: 327

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 08:51 PM

I feel that what how a player organizes their transportation network really determines the development of the city in the long run. If the roads are built inefficiently, traffic jams are likely to occur which slows down the economy and to a certain extent, how fast troops can be mobilized which affects the total time taken for the army to reach another planet for combat. In RTS games, every second is important. Your allies in other planet may be trying their best to hold off the enemy troops where they can be down another second. Being late by a bit can have a significant impact on the war. 

 

Also, when building the city, it is imperative to balance the various aspect, economy, happiness of the common folks, R&D and the military since they each have a significant impact on each other. If they raise too large of an army, the economy may be unable to maintain them and thus, may cause the city to go in debt. 

 

Maybe for an MMO city building game, I feel that trading will be rather important, how you can export things to others to earn money, import things to make up for a lack of a certain product and so on.

 

One of my favourite city building game would be Tropico 3 since it had a really complex economy system and where you construct your buildings really had a major impact on the game. Building too many factories may cause protests by the environmentalist, too little religious building will cause resentment among the religious people. You had to balance all the aspects as much as possible to appeal to the majority.



#17 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2223

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 08:13 AM

In terms of traditional city builders I always liked the Ceaser series.

But I'm going to suggested an alternative type of builder game and say what I'd really like to see is a strategy/sim game that uses the mechanics of the grow series of games.

Like:

http://www.eyezmaze.com/eyezblog_en/blog/2010/08/grow_valley.html

http://www.eyezmaze.com/eyezblog_en/blog/2007/09/grow_island_game.html

http://www.eyezmaze.com/grow/RPG/index.html

http://www.eyezmaze.com/eyezblog_en/blog/2005/09/grow_cube.html

 

In which you place tiles, objects, concepts, on the game world and watch as they evolve and interact with each other.


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#18 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 02:52 PM

when building the city, it is imperative to balance the various aspect, economy, happiness of the common folks, R&D and the military since they each have a significant impact on each other. If they raise too large of an army, the economy may be unable to maintain them and thus, may cause the city to go in debt. 

Agreed.  I think the general economics are good.  In particular, I'd like more focus on what aspects of these to bring in.  Like the debt part you brought up here, but also relating to things like:

 

Quality of Life: No hospitals, no police force, no schools, high taxes.  The QoL would be pretty low, and you would not gain population, and even lose it.  Perhaps this could add another variable to troops, IQ.  if your system has no schools, perhaps the average troop IQ is 85, and then training times and effectiveness of troops can be affected by this.  If you focus a lot on education, perhaps your troops might get up to an average of 115.  and then they learn faster, and could be troops who start picking up more without being trained for it.  (I.e.  just because I was only trained to shoot a gun doesn't mean I can't patch up a wound or operate a hand grenade.

 

So that gave several stories of how things related, but it tied specifically to IQ.  and how that would affect areas.

 

Maybe for an MMO city building game, I feel that trading will be rather important, how you can export things to others to earn money, import things to make up for a lack of a certain product and so on.

 

Agreed also.  and perhaps there is more than can be exported than goods.  Perhaps experts...  For instance, your city is doing really well in the science industry.  Perhaps other cities can pay for brief time with "a city expert for science".  Perhaps that means that for 15 minutes, the selling player can't enhance technologies or change technology initiatives, but the paying player will receive a mild percentage boost to Technology improvements.


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Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#19 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 02:55 PM

But I'm going to suggested an alternative type of builder game and say what I'd really like to see is a strategy/sim game that uses the mechanics of the grow series of games.

Like:
http://www.eyezmaze....row_valley.html
http://www.eyezmaze....sland_game.html
http://www.eyezmaze..../RPG/index.html
http://www.eyezmaze..../grow_cube.html
 
In which you place tiles, objects, concepts, on the game world and watch as they evolve and interact with each other.

 

interesting concept. so this is like  life simulators, where you add and take away blocks, and see how things "naturally" influence each other.  Except in this case its about a more complex base of items, like factories and science centers and power stations, etc...


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.





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