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Cities: Skylines II - title

One of the biggest criticisms of Cities Skylines II since its release last fall, has been the lack of expressive options for the player to customize the look and feel of your city. The sequel lacks a lot of the content that was in the first game. But considering that the first game had a 10-year life span, during which it received around a dozen expansions, numerous other content packs, and uncountable mods, it's understandable that the sequel would feel a little lacking in this regard at release. We can't expect a brand new game to have all of the content of such a massively expanded and modded predecessor. That being said, I do think that there are ways that Colossal Order could modify its rules and mechanics in Cities: Skylines II in order to restore some of this expressiveness.

I already published a video and blog outlining my suggestion for a modification to the building upgrade and industry area mechanics in order to make them a lot more flexible and to allow greater freedom for the player to tailor how these assets look and behave. While I was working on that project, I had another idea for how Colossal Order could give players a bit more expressive control over their cities. I had originally planned on briefly sharing this other idea in that first video and blog, but decided to break it out into its own post. I'm not going to transcribe the whole video here on the blog. Instead, I will summarize the main points of the video, and refer you to the full video if you want to see specific examples and more detailed explanation.

Full video outlining my suggestion for adding specialized zoning.

As I mentioned in my previous feature suggestion video for Cities: Skylines II, I have posted a poll on Patreon asking if Patrons would be interested in seeing a "Farewell Tour" video of my Cities: Skylines cities before I uninstall that game for good, and those cities disappear into the ether forever. This poll will close at the end of April. If I get enough interest in such a video, I will plan to begin work on it during the summer.


Remember, my channel is not monetized, and so all of my financial support comes from viewers like you via Patreon. Patreon pledges go towards offsetting the cost of the licenses for the software that I use to create video content like this, as well as the cost of maintaining the blog website at Patrons receive previews of upcoming content, early access to select content, and voting power in polls of what content I will make next. I would like to take this moment to thank all of my Patrons, past, present, and future. Your support really means a lot.

Specializing zoning

In addition to the industry area and building upgrade suggestions that I already made in the previous video, I would like to have the limited ability to choose what type of zoned building will spawn in a particular block of zoning. I propose adding a feature in which the player could spend development points or experience in order to choose what type of building will spawn in a zoned area. By "type of building", I mean the types of commercial and industrial companies that are listed in the taxation menu. For example, a particular block of cells could be specialized for commercial "lodging", or for "ore storage", or for a gas station, and so forth. This would replace the original specialized district mechanic from the first game, and would give the player more granular control over the makeup of your city and its individual districts.

Original Cities Skylines required specializing an entire district.

With this mechanic, the player could create a highway rest stop on the outskirts of the city by specializing a small block of cells for a gas station, another for a convenience store, another for a restaurant, and yet another for lodging. This would allow people on a road trip to pull off the side of the highway, fuel up, grab a bite to eat, and maybe stop for the night. Alternatively, this mechanic could be used to specialize downtown offices for software, in order to create a tech or IT hub. Players could also use this mechanic to ensure that industry material storage is placed in between specialized industry extractors and the processing and manufacturing industries that consume those raw materials. And so forth.

And if you don't like the specific building that pops up, you can simply demolish it to try to get another building that offers the same service.

One way to implement this would be to allow the player to spend Development Points to specialize a block of zoning. This would likely require the entire milestone and development tree system to be re-balanced, and it has other problems, such as placing a hard limit on the number of Development Points that can be earned, and on how much the player can specialize their city.

Experience points could be spent to specialize cells.

As such, a better option, in my opinion, would be to just spend Experience Points directly. Each cell that is specialized would simply cost a specific amount of experience, and the experience cost could scale up as more cells are specialized. This allows a technically unlimited amount of specialization, but at the cost of slowing down the city's progress towards the next milestone. It also allows experience gain after the final milestone to actually be meaningful, since the player would still have something to spend that experience on.

This ability would give the player a lot more freedom to tailor the look and function of their city, while eliminating the need for complicated specialized districts. It would give more utility to experience points and/or development points. And having the option to spend experience points on specialization could potentially make the game more challenging by straining city budgets due to delaying the next milestone and the influx of cash that it provides.

It also more closely mirrors the way that actual cities plan their development, since it is very common for real cities to reserve or prohibit certain types of businesses from operating in certain locations. For example, most cities have ordinances that prohibit things like strip clubs or bars from opening within a certain distance from an elementary school or church. Cities: Skylines II doesn't have strip clubs (yet), but it does have bars. So we armchair mayors can make sure that the commercial block next to our elementary school is populated by family-friendly businesses -- if that is our prerogative.

An in-game alternative to Developer Mode

Now, I do want to point out that placing specific buildings is actually possible within the game already. It requires using the Developer Tools, which allow the player to place any zoned building in a specific location (as well as many other tricks for decorating and customizing your city). However, using the developer tools is kind of "cheating", and it has the potential to destabilize the game, and maybe even corrupt save files. As suck, I think it would be nice to have a way to do this sort of thing within the rules of the actual game. My suggestion would allow players to place more specific buildings without having to install mods or having to cheat by using the Dev Tools.

The Developer Mode can be used to place specific building assets, but it is cheating, and has limitations.

Also, the Developer Mode tools have their own limitations. Because the asset picker only place specific assets, any asset that is placed can become any type of business that would normally use that asset. The asset picker can be used to place things like gas stations, hotels, motels, and industry material storage, but this is only because those specific buildings have unique asset models. Most other commercial and industry businesses share the same collection of assets. For example, things like furniture stores, auto shops, electronics stores, and convenience stores all use the same collection of commercial building models, so the player cannot use the Developer Mode asset picker to specifically place a furniture store, since that shop can become any type of store.

As such, my suggestion actually offer more control and flexibility than the actual Developer Mode does!

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