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This week, Colossal Order finally formally announced the anticipated Cities: Skylines 2 and released an official announcement trailer. Unfortunately, the trailer does not have any actual gameplay footage, nor are there any actual in-game screenshots available (that I know of). However, I do want to take some time to go through what is shown in the trailer and make some inferences about what may or may not be in the actual game. Even though the trailer is a pre-rendered cinematic, instead of actual gameplay, we can assume that what is shown in the trailer is intended to represent the actual content of the game -- at least on an abstract level.

First and foremost, here is the trailer itself, in its entirety. I recommend you watch it before reading on.

Cities: Skylines 2 has been formally announced by this trailer.

I will be breaking the trailer down based on 3 criteria. The first is what the narration says, which may provide some hints as to how the game will play. The second is what is actually shown in the trailer. The final category is things that are not included or implied by the trailer.

What does the trailer say?

I'll start by going over what the narrator says in the trailer. This narration doesn't talk about any specific mechanics or systems in the game, but it may provides hints regarding the game's general design philosophy. So here is a transcription of the narration:

It's time to start from the beginning,
yet evolve into something new.
This city has a story.
Envision a world created by you,
your chance to shape the future,
to create and inspire,
expand way up high,
and bring life to your creation,
new worlds to explore and pursue.
Here, you are the visionary.
You are the creator.
You make cities.

The trailer narration talks about "starting from the beginning" and "evolving into something new". This could just be a reference to the fact that this is a new game, built on a new engine, which will likely have entirely different mechanics and systems than the first game. This makes me wonder if the sequel will be less sandboxy and more scenario-based or goal-oriented. "Starting from the beginning" and "evolving" hints at the idea of cities starting in a certain time period, perhaps with a certain technology level, and then advancing over time. SimCity 2000 did something similar to this, in which cities could be started in 1800, and as the years went on, technology like railroads, advanced power-generation, highways, and so forth would be unlocked around the same year that such technologies were discovered in real life.

This is further hinted by the line "this city has a story" and that the player has a "chance to shape the future". This suggests that there might be some kind of "memory" of the events that have happened to the city, and the decisions that the player has made. Perhaps, the citizens of the city may remember your past successes and failures, and this could potentially influence the growth and satisfaction level of the city. For example, if I fail to properly handle an emergency situation or natural disaster (assuming those are in the game), the citizens might get angry at me and demand that I build some emergency mitigation infrastructure or adopt some mitigation policies. And if I fail to fulfill those desires, it might hurt the growth level of the city, reduce tax revenue, reduce the satisfaction of the citizens, and maybe even cause me to lose the game, if the game is oriented more around scenarios or goals.

The rest of the narration is mostly about the player having control of the city. This could hint at the level of control that the player has, or could suggest that mods and custom assets will be highly encouraged.

The one other interesting part of the narration is the lines about creating and shaping new "worlds". Not new "cities", but new "worlds". This makes me wonder if the sequel will include some kind of regional mechanics that allow multiple cities to interact in some ways. These ideas were explored in SimCity 4, SimCity (2013), and Cities XL, as well as other city-builders. Those games all allowed cities to trade things with each other, ranging from industrial and commercial goods to utilities like water and power. They also allowed for citizens to travel between cities for work, school, and so forth. In the case of the SimCity games, there was a larger regional map on which multiple cities could exist, so that they all shared a connected, physical space.

SimCity and Cities XL emphasized trade and connections between cities.

What does the trailer show?

Now let's look at the imagery of the trailer. Again, I want to emphasize that none of this is actual gameplay or in-engine renders, so none of it is representative of how the game will actually look or play. But the visuals and animations that Colossal Order chose to put in the trailer should be good indicators of what kind of concepts might be in the final game.

I'll list my observations and speculations in the order that they appear within the trailer.

More rural spaces?

The opening moments of the trailer show plant seeds sprouting and utility lines running under the ground. It then pans up above the ground to show cars driving through a large rural highway towards a large city. I don't see anything that looks like a farm exactly, but we do see what appears to be a road-side gas station and a diner or rest stop. This imagery, combined with some of the narration discussed previously, could suggest that this sequel will put a greater emphasis on rural spaces. Those rural spaces could be on the outskirts of the city, or they could be the spaces in between cities in a larger, regional map, as I discussed previously.

If the sequel still requires the player to buy sectors of the map in order to expand the city, perhaps we will be able to buy non-contiguous sectors in order to build distant rural spaces. Maybe we'll be able to build certain infrastructure, such as utility services, highways, and rail lines in the locked sectors so that we can connect distant rural areas to our city. This could allow industries such as farming, mining, and drilling to be built further away from the city centers, and therefore earlier in the game, without having to buy all the sectors in between.

A rural town appears to be developing on its own, well outside the city limits.

Or maybe there will be a larger regional map that includes multiple cities, and we'll be able to build smaller satellite towns in the spaces in between in order to provide certain industries and services.

The fetishization of perpetual growth and the lack of representation of rural spaces was a criticism of the launch of the first Cities: Skylines. It was somewhat mitigated by the addition of the industry areas in the Industries expansion. However, those rural spaces would usually remain very close to the denser city center because of the way that new expansion sectors were unlocked. It was very easy for the city to overgrow around those formerly rural spaces such that they would often look out of place. Hopefully, the sequel will address this issue and allow rural spaces to have more room to breathe and exist on their own.

Construction over time?

We don't see traffic cones or detour signs, per se, at least not at the beginning of the trailer. However, the opening moments of the trailer show a highway overpass being constructed bit by bit as the cars pass underneath. Could this suggest that construction of infrastructure like roads, powerlines, and so forth might take some in-game time to complete, instead of being instantly constructed?

A highway is being built piece-by-piece.

The motif of construction persists throughout the trailer, with lots of clips of buildings being constructed and construction cranes.

Near the end of the trailer, there are some traffic cones and construction workers on a bridge. But they seem to be in the median of the bridge, and not actually doing construction work to any of the lanes of traffic. Perhaps they're tearing down the median to replace it with more travel lanes? Or perhaps they are adding a pedestrian path or some other transit infrastructure? Or maybe it's just decoration and doesn't mean anything.

Are these construction workers actually building some kind of extension to this bridge?

Smoother node connections

This roundabout has smooth merge lanes.

The trailer also highlights a roundabout. Roundabouts are possible to build in the first Cities: Skylines, but they don't really look as pretty or function as well as roundabouts in real life. This is due to the fact that the first Cities: Skylines doesn't really have support for merging lanes. Instead, the connection point between segments of different roads always creates an intersection. There were mods to fix this problem in the original game, and it looks like the sequel is incorporating those ideas natively.

Hopefully, these smoother node connections won't be limited to roundabouts. Highway on and off ramps also suffered from the limitations of node connections in the original game. Hopefully in the sequel, we'll be able to build proper on and off ramps with actual merging lanes that look much cleaner.

Urban decay

The next bit of speculation is something that I've been asking to see in Cities: Skylines for quite some time. A scene in the sequel trailer shows people walking through a run down-looking neighborhood with old, beaten-up buildings that look neglected and poorly-maintained. The pedestrians cross the street into a neighborhood that looks new, modern, and shiny. This suggests that Cities: Skylines 2 will feature some sort of "urban decay" mechanic.

The trailer shows that some parts of the city may suffer urban decay.

The trailer doesn't give any indication as to how urban decay would work, mechanically, but it definitely appears that older, poorer areas of the city will fall into disrepair. Presumably, the poor condition of the neighborhood should cause wealthier residents and businesses to move out, which will lower the land value and lead to less affluent citizens and businesses moving in. We can also assume that residents probably won't be as satisfied with living in a run-down part of town, and so happiness in the area will likely also suffer.

Will the value of land be a simple function of how many amenities are nearby, as is the case in the original Cities: Skylines? Or will the player have more control over the value and affluence of neighborhood via policy? The original game did not allow the player to alter tax rates based on wealth level. There were no progressive taxes. Instead, taxes were based on the density of the zoning. There were policies that allowed districts to be taxed at higher or lower rates compared to the zone baseline, but that was it. So will the player be able to deliberately create (for lack of a better word) "ghettos"? Will we also have the power to gentrify a district? Will that gentrification force out the lower-income residents and lead to further domestic problems like homelessness and low housing affordability?

Bigger waterfronts and more developed waterways

Next we have a couple scenes showing a bustling waterfront. We see multiple ship docks and harbors running along the waterfronts, and a lot of ships going back and forth. This could suggest a greater emphasis on waterfront and waterway development. Perhaps there will be actual harbor "districts" or "areas" similar to the Parklife park areas, Industries industrial parks, University campuses, and Airports airports? There's even a little lighthouse at the end of one pier.

Unfortunately, it's hard to tell if this will also include other maritime activities and transit options. All the vessels in this first scene appear to be cargo and freight carriers. There is another scene later that appears to show smaller docks, harbors, and piers. These may be ferry terminals, fishing docks, or marines, or combinations of all three. So it's still a bit of an open question as to whether ferries will be included in the vanilla release. I would certainly hope so. Ferries were not included in the vanilla release of the original game, and had to wait for several expansions before they were added, and it was considered to be a huge oversight and glaring omission by the fanbase. Hopefully Colossal Order does not repeat that mistake.

The waterfront shows many docks and harbors.

Another open question is whether the sequel will have better support for navigable rivers and canals (assuming it will even have canals to begin with). The vanilla game did allow for ferries and fishing routes to go up rivers and canals (fishing routes could even go outside of the city limits), but cargo ships needed to have a straight line connection to the ocean. This made it impossible in most cases to have any sort of cargo or freight shipping that went up rivers or canals, unless the river or canal ran perfectly perpendicular to the ocean at the edge of the map. This contributed to the excess of freight trucks on Cities: Skylines roadways, which lead to lots of traffic problems in industrial districts.

I really hope that Cities: Skylines 2 will allow freight routes to go up rivers and canals, assuming that they are wide enough and deep enough.

Seasonal cycles and weather

It also looks like we'll be getting weather and snow in the vanilla release. We won't have to wait for an expansion to add winter cities. Even better, the trailer shows snowfall melting and transitioning into spring, which suggests that the sequel will actually have seasonal transitions.

Based on the repeated inclusion of weather effects such as rain and snow, and the narration talking about "evolving" and "shaping the future", I also wonder if Cities: Skylines 2 will include some kind of climate change mechanic that could force the city to have to adapt to changing weather patterns and possibly also natural disasters as the game goes on.

The trailer shows a city transitioning from winter weather to summer.

Personally, at the very least, I would really like to see things like monsoon rains causing flooding. I was always disappointed that Cities: Skylines added the free terraforming DLC that gave the player the ability to create canals, flood barriers, and so forth, but we never actually needed to manage drainage or account for flooding from rain. These water-management features only really became relevant with coastal cities in the Natural Disasters expansion, but only in the rare event of a tsunami. So having the risk of excessive rainfall leading to flooding would make such features much more relevant in the sequel.

There could also be the risk of gradually rising sea levels requiring the player to create seawalls and otherwise protect your waterfronts from rising sea levels.

Large park spaces

We also see a large, open park space (during the winter / summer transition scene). This park looks like a Central Park kind of space, rather than just a little neighborhood park. This makes me suspect that some variation or iteration of the Parklife area-painting mechanic might return for parks. We only see a fairly regular park in the trailer. I didn't notice any signs of things like amusement parks, zoos, or nature preserves (which were all in the first game's Parklife expansion). I also don't see any new kinds of parks, like a water park, golf course, or sports park. And despite several views of waterfronts, there's also sadly no hint of public beaches. So it's possible that this mechanic may be limited to city parks. At least in the vanilla release. Perhaps more park types will be added by expansions?

If this mechanic is in the game from launch, then hopefully, we won't have all the problems from the first game in which some ploppables could be placed in painted areas, and other legacy ploppables would only work alongside roads. This was a big frustration of mine in Cities: Skyliens, as this limitation often prevented me from creating exactly the layouts that I wanted.

I was consistently annoyed when legacy structures weren't updated to use expansion mechanics.

I'm also curious if the Parklife system will extend to other infrastructure in the city, such as industrial parks, university campuses, airports, and maybe also harbors or waterfronts. I don't notice anything that looks like a university campus, and there's actually very little hint of industry in the trailer. We do see an airplane, but no actual airport. However, as mentioned earlier, we do get several glimpses of large, bustling waterfronts and seaports, so waterfronts is a very good candidate for a Parklife area mechanic.

What is not in the trailer

Lastly, I want to take a little bit of time to talk about some things that I would have liked to see in the trailer, but which did not show up. These are things that I have long wanted to see added to the original Cities: Skylines, but which never made it in as official, native content. But I was able to get some of it from mods.

The first and most important thing that I would like to see in the sequel, which was never added to the original game, is public beaches. The original game would create sandy beaches along shores, and there were a few buildings that we could place along shorlines (such as a fishing pier, small marina, and restaurant-on-a-pier), but we could never plop, zone, or draw actual beach areas that could be used recreationally by citizens. The barrenness of beaches would always be most apparent in any coastal tourism districts. It just looked awful having all those high-rise resort hotels right along a beach, but to never see anybody actually using the beach.

I was able to find mods that added assets for things like beach umbrellas, lifeguard towers, and surf shops to try to spruce up my beaches a little bit, but they only go so far. Citizens still don't use them. I would just end up with a beach full of umbrellas, BBQ pits, surfboards, and lifeguard towers, but nobody would ever actually be using them. It would be like a scene from a post-apocalypse movie. The best I could do would be to draw a pedestrian dirt path to get some people to walk along the beach, then maybe plop some Parklife objects along those paths (like fire pits or tents) to create a little bit of activity. But it still never looked particularly convincing.

Sadly, I don't see any signs of beaches in this trailer either. Despite multiple scenes showing waterfronts with docks, harbors, and possibly little marinas, there were no sandy beaches at all -- let alone anybody actually using them to swim, surf, sunbathe, build sandcastles, or any of the other things that people do at beaches.

Things that I wanted to see in first Cities: Skylines,
but which were never added (outside of mods) were public beaches, parking lots, and park 'n' ride.

The other piece of infrastructure that I wish I would have seen in the trailer are parking lots, garages, and park 'n' rides. Most commercial and industrial buildings in the original Cities: Skylines would have small parking lots with a few spaces, and cars would actually use them. But I would like to see large parking lots and garages, especially around infrastructure that citizens normally commute to. I'd like to be able to create a parking lot or garage in the middle of an industrial park or shopping center, and also adjacent to things like parks, schools, universities, hospitals, and sports stadiums.

There should also be parking lots or garages adjacent to mass transit options like bus depots, metro stations, and so forth. This would allow the city to have park 'n' ride that would allow citizens to drive a short distance from their homes to a transit hub, and use that transit option to go longer distances to work or shop.

Again, I was able to find mods that added some of these structures, but just like with beaches, they only partially work. Cars will actually occasionally park in these lots and garages, but there would rarely have more than a few cars in the lot.

With more robust parking mechanics, Cities: Skylines 2 could have additional options for city policies and revenue streams, such as being able to charge for parking, or to line streets with parking meters. I would also like to see the lack of available parking become a contributor to people being unhappy in the city, and demand either more parking or better transit options. This is a real problem that real cities struggle to address or solve, and it would be nice to see realistic problems like this represented in the game.

The last mechanic for which I would have liked to see a more explicit example in the trailer is the concept of homelessness. Yes, we do see the urban decay that I mentioned earlier, which does suggest that there will be wider gaps between wealth levels of citizens, and that these wealth levels will likely have more of an impact on the overall city and game. In this slum area, we see a cop, which suggests a greater crime rate and police presence in poorer areas; we see graffiti and garbage piling up; and we see old, run down cars parked halfway on the sidewalk because the roads aren't wide enough to support dedicated street parking. But even in the clip showing people walking around the slums, we don't see any sign of homelessness. There's no bums begging for money, or sleeping on benches or in tents, or warming themselves at trash can bonfires.

Lack of affordable housing and an explosion of homelessness are
big social problems in the United States, and in my own community.

Again, homelessness and the lack of affordable housing is a big emerging problem (in the United States, anyway). Like with transit and parking, homelessness is a huge real-life problem that real cities and mayors have to deal with. I would like to see this problem represented in the game as well. Homelessness could act as an additional challenge towards building the utopian city of our dreams, and players should have options like affordable housing subsidies, rent controls, job-placement programs, substance rehabilitation, mental health care, and the ability to build soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and half-way houses to help uplift people out of poverty and allow them to become productive citizens with the level of dignity that all people deserve.

I better clear my schedule for the fall

In addition to Cities: Skylines 2 being announced, a representative from Firaxis has also confirmed that Civilization VII is in development. There is no release date for Civ VII yet, but I sure hope that it doesn't release this fall. I'm going to have enough trouble balancing my time between Cities: Skylines 2 and this year's suite of football games (including the new Maximum Football reboot). It'll be even harder if there's also a new Civ game.

Either way, my gaming slate for the end of this year suddenly looks a lot more full...

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