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SimCity building tips: How to build a residential metropolis

SimCity might have felt the ire of gamers following its launch thanks to a slew of server issues and gameplay restrictions, but you can still mold your city into a desirable metropolis of happy citizens and thriving residential skyscrapers, without giving into the game’s apparent needs for commercial and industry sectors.

So yes, you can build a really beautiful, Singapore-esque city with thriving residential areas without providing industrial or commercial jobs, feeding wealthy residents’ shopping cravings, or dealing with other towns. Choosing a speciality for your city isn’t even necessary.

Here’s how.

1. Road Density

You may have already noticed cities in SimCity rely almost exclusively on the road system: power, water, garbage – everything is built to function on a system of roads.

Think about how the subway needs a set of tunnels to run: if the tunnels aren’t connected, then obviously the train can’t get from one station to another.

So the best way to explain how important roads are is to think of a subway: subways need tunnels and tracks. Every road you lay in SimCity is a subway tunnel with a track. If you have two roads that aren’t connected, then the power station connected to one road won’t be able to deliver power to the houses along the other road.

The key to building a wealthy, high density city is road density: without a high density road system, those greedy developers won’t be interested in building large, beautiful apartment buildings.

1.1 Upgrading Old Roads

Now I understand that when you first start building your city, it can be expensive to lay lots of high density roads. That’s OK: when you first starting building your city you’ll need to start small. You can start off with some commercial and industrial areas to begin with, because you won’t have the money to afford city services to provide jobs otherwise provided by those zones (I’ll delve deeper into that a little later).

Once you feel your city is ready and raring to go for an upgrade, click on the “roads” menu and look for the “road upgrade” button below the different types of road angles.

Upgrading a low density road to a high density road won’t be cheap, though, but it is cheaper than completing bulldozing the road and replacing it. The price of the upgrade depends on the length of the street. Upgrading roads is a far more cost-effective way to change the density level of your roads, and will reduce the amount of buildings you demolish to make way.

2. Keeping Residents Wealthy And Happy

A happy, wealthy city is also key to building a metropolis. You can check how happy your residents are by clicking the little smiley button and reading up on what your residents like, dislike, and how they feel.

Now, it’s very easy to get sucked into what your advisors have to say. You’ll notice your zoning advisor requesting more residential areas far more often than industrial or commercial areas.

2.1 What Residents Want

Residents want a few things:

  • High-paying jobs
  • Safety
  • Health

Education may also be important, but it’s not a completely necessity to get people to your city.

Now, fulfilling these wants is actually far easier than you might imagine. Zoning commercial and industrial areas when you first start can help lay the foundations for a city no longer in need of those zones: you’ll first need them in order to live without them.

Raise taxes slightly higher for industrial sectors. Build small low density residential areas around industrial zones to attract blue-collar works. This will help build up your coffers and give you some extra cash.

2.2 Investing In Social Services

You can replace the need for industrial and commercial jobs with services. This includes police precincts, hospitals and the like.

Try and focus on these services: when you’re upgrading your Town Hall, ensure you throw money at the Health, Safety and Utilities departments to unlock new services and, therefore, more jobs.

2.3 Laying Strong Community Foundations

Once you start seeing the money build up, lay/upgrade some high density streets. Throw in some parks — the “formal” parks do a wonderful job in attracting wealthy, happy residents — and your residential regions will start to thrive with medium-to-high density apartment buildings.

It’s important you keep these areas watered, powered and serviced by police, fire and health services, so always look to upgrade these services when you can without spending all of your cash at once. You’ll notice that a call-out for more police can be satisfied with an extra police car or holding cell. There’s no need to buy every single upgrade for a service at once.

3. Finalising Your Metropolis

Make sure you keep an eye on your city’s density capabilities. You can check the levels by clicking the layered button on the bottom right-hand corner, and then clicking the density button in the top right of the pop-up menu.

This will show which areas the residents are most happy and likely to expand in, and which areas have residents that are unhappy and likely to move out.

4. This Isn’t What Maxis Had In Mind

Now, this city you’ve just built doesn’t do a very good job of actually contributing to the region, but once your population is up and the population is happy, you’ll notice you’ll have far more freedom to explore things like trade, mining, or even gambling. You can very easily sidetrack those things and contribute to your region AFTER your city has expanded.

This city has happy residents, a consistent flow of cash, few advisor requests, and very little traffic. There is the occasional safety, health, fire or power issues, but these all seem to be random moments dictated by the age of the service in question: your sewerage plants, for example, often need replacing once they reach capacity.

5. Some Tips For The Road

5.1 Electricity

You can also easily use a wind power-plant for electricity, although this will often need to be expanded. If you want to keep air pollution down and residents happy, try to avoid polluting plants. The unfortunate compromise for clean energy is that you’ll have to expand it far more often than you would, say, a nuclear power plant.

5.2 Water

Water pumps are sufficient but need to be placed in parts of the city with clean water sources. Resident happiness doesn’t appear to be affected much by having these pumps near their homes.

This is a very rough, quick guide on how to build a residential metropolis without the need of commercial and industrial zones.

6. TL;DR Summary

  • 1. Start small: build industrial close to residential areas along low density roads to build up your funds. Raise industry taxes (but not too much).
  • 2. Build high density roads. Upgrade old roads rather than demolish them.
  • 3. Invest in public services — health, police, fire (necessities) and education — to create jobs.
  • 4. Ensure there are plenty of “formal” parks within residential regions
  • 5. Continually expand clean energy, or build dirty energy far from residential areas.

Feel free to ask any questions you have below!

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