Cities: Skylines came out of nowhere in 2015 and shattered SimCity’s position as the ultimate city-builder game, capitalising on the design failure that was EA’s latest entrant in the series and taking the crown for itself. Now, two years later, developer Colossal Order continues to team up with publisher Paradox Interactive to support the strategy game that conquered the hearts of thousands.
At EGX Rezzed in London, I sat down with lead game designer Karoliina Korppoo to test out the latest DLC, Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit. Focusing on the transportation aspect of city management and expanding the range of tools, Mass Transit allows players to create their own perfect route, be it a short efficient commute journey or a long scenic tour of the city’s skylines.
While the original game already had a pretty significant poll of transportation options, Mass Transit expands that and gives players almost complete control over their settlement’s traffic. “With Mass Transit, we gave everything we could give”, says Korppoo. “We added the monorails, the ferries, the hubs that connect the means of transportation, we even changed the way traffic works”.
Before this update, it was a common sight to see ambulances and fire trucks stuck in traffic, unable to move if a gridlock ever took place. Now, emergency vehicles have a new AI that allows them to slowly weave their way through jams and reach the citizens most in need. “The emergency cars get priority when driving through roads, and they can even cut through traffic to get to emergencies faster”, Korppoo tells me.
Expanding the collection of transport methods are blimps and cable cars, which supplement the aforementioned monorails and ferries. Together, they all help virtual citizens traverse the city by land, sea, and air.
Each method of transportation has it’s own infrastructure, complete with buildings, depots, and stations, and players are able to create and designate routes however they want. Ferries and blimps just need a couple of stops plopped down somewhere in town to automatically generate a route, while cable cars and monorails must have their journeys manually designed via a series of pillars and tracks. “They work the same way as overpasses and trams”, says Korppoo. “But the monorail is really awesome, because you can just put it on top of a road and it follows it”.
When asked about the awesomeness of some of the transportation options and how impractical they unfortunately are, Karoliina laughed. “Yes, in real life [blimps and cable cars] don’t have stops and can’t really carry a lot of people, but we thought they should be in the game because they’re cool”, she told me. “That isn’t done in real life, but we allow players to create stops to give them more options”.
As with every Paradox expansion, a big patch full of free features comes to shower love upon those who haven’t bought the DLC. Dropping at the same time as Mass Transit, the next update for Cities: Skylines brings a number of requested features and quality of life improvements, like the ability to rename roads and add signs to them, and the inclusion at last of a visual guide for road building, allowing symmetry-obsessed people to lay down perfectly squared grids and be exceptionally anal about it. A lot of those were already present via mods, and Karoliina tells me the team looks at what the mod creators did to successfully assimilate the best received features into the base game.
“Mods are a good thing, but we don't want players to need them to achieve their core experience”, she tells me. “So we look into those mods that clearly fill a gap that we would like to have, and talk to the authors about bringing it into the game”.
Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit is out on the 18th of May, 2017, and it brings a bunch of new hats for Chirper.