Beating Sim City 4 with high-tech

By Attila Szegedi, on Friday, 4th February 2005

Of course, you can't beat Sim City. It's a creative game, more or less a workbench that allows you to freely experiment with building your own city. It doesn't constrain you toward any goal itself - you can set your own goals regarding what kind of city do you wnat to build or what do you want to do with it. Hell, it even lets you unleash a ten storey high robot with a highly destructive attitude on it if you get really bored. However, as a person who lost countless hours of his life on both the original Sim City (played it on an Atari 520 STM way back in 1991), Sim City 2000, and more recently on Sim City 4, I know that there are some city building challenges that you will quickly face as your city grows.

The problem

The following forces are at work:

The solution

To put it bluntly, you need to reduce traffic by reducing the length of the commute for your sims. But wait, this goes against the idea of placing industries far away from homes, doesn't it? Yes, it does. Fortunately, in Sim City 4, you have a nonpolluting form of industry - the high-tech industry. High tech industry (companies like "Havoc Bioenhancements", "Andrews Semiconductors" etc.) is unlike the two other industry types (named "dirty" and "manufacturing") in lots of many ways. First, they won't show up in your city unless the population is well educated. Second, they don't produce any pollution. Third, they specifically dislike polluted locations, much the same as residentials do. Because they don't produce pollution, they can be placed next to residential zones without having any negative impact on them.

Here's a working recipe for creating a city with 100% high-tech industry:

When you start your city, build an elementary school (you'd do that, anyway, wouldn't you?) but immediately build a high school as well near it, and also a college. You can build college further away, as it doesn't have a limited influence radius - it's the "City College" after all. A high school and the college are a big drain on your budget, but you can reduce their funding - their capacity goes down as you reduce funding, but in the beginning, you will only have 10-20 students in the high school and under 10 in the college anyway, so it's not a problem. Just make sure that you check back on them periodically and give them more funding if the demand exceeds capacities (you can do this fine-tuning for almost all other types of amenities - clinics, libraries, elemenatary schools. Don't do it with police and firemen, though). If you forget to do it, don't worry - they'll remind you about it when they go on strike :-) Anyway, build other amenities as you whould anyway - at least a police station, a fire station, and a clinic. I won't go into a debate about how to provide electric power and water to your city - you can either go the cheaper in the short run (wind power generators and water towers) or with the cheaper in the long run (natural gas power plant and water pumps). From the point of my recipe it is irrelevant, although I tend to go with the latter, even if it makes eventual budget squeezes a bit tougher.

Now, try to delay allocating industrial zones as long as you possibly can. Ideally, your city can grow and expand solely on people working in commercial facilities. If you're lucky, after a while, you'll see "Industrial-HT" bar showing positive value in your RCI demand graph. That means there'd be high tech industry willing to come to your town. At that point, you can allocate an industrial zone next to a residential zone, but: first make sure that other industry types - dirty and manufacturing are maximally taxed (20.0%). That will make a clear message that they're unwelcome in your city, and you can be pretty sure no such industry will ever set foot in it.

Well, that'd be it, but things might not be so rosy. Your city might stagnate without industry, and high-tech is not yet willing to come to your town. As a temporary measure, you can allocate an industrial zone further away from the residential zones and let polluting industry types there. However, as soon as there is a demand for high-tech, do as above: maximally tax other industry types and allocate industrial zones next to residential ones. Don't outright demolish the polluting industry yet; leave it where it is until your city absolutely needs to grow into those areas. For one thing, those factories that stubbornly stick around despite the killing tax rates will provide you with a nice budget surplus - thank to those same killing tax rates. When your city needs to expand into the areas occupied by the polluting industry, gradually reclaim the space. You will need to redesignate part of the area into residential and commercial zones - high tech won't want to move in if there are no residential areas nearby, so leaving it all industrial won't help you as those lots will most certainly remain empty. Also, remember that you want to keep the commute lengths short, so make place for people to live and shop nearby the industry where they work. There's one little detail left: while you run the city with polluting industry, don't place your garbage landfills near it. Remember, you'll want to rezone those locations when the city expands, and those landfills make for nasty neighbours. Move the landfills out to a corner of the map; the same place where you should put your gas power plant and the prison :-)


Commute length are short, so are commute times. Traffic in your city remains reasonably light without any form of mass transit. Air pollution is nearly zero (with only maybe a little traffic pollution around most frequented roads). Water pollution is zero. Your sims love you.


If you feel like discussing anything related to this article, you can post a comment to my related blog entry. Alternatively, if you're a registered Maxis user, you can participate in the relevant Maxis forum entry.

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