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Cities: Skylines II - title

One of the biggest criticisms of Cities Skylines II is that it is lacking content or feels "incomplete". I don't necessarily disagree, but I feel like saying that the game feels "incomplete" might be doing it a bit of a disservice. It is lacking a lot of content from the original game, sure, but that original game had over a dozen expansions and countless content packs and mod assets released over its decade-long life cycle. So of course there's going to be things that the original, expanded game had, which the new game doesn't have.

But the sequel also has (and does) a lot of things that the original didn't do. It has a much more complicated economy, in which all industries generate specific types of raw materials or goods, and all commercial stores sell specific types of goods or resources. Basically, the core idea of the Industries expansion supply lines and logistics was expanded out to the entire game, rather than just those few specialized industries.

In fact, the sequel includes content or ideas from almost all of the original game's expansions. In addition to the industrial aforementioned seasonal cycle and industrial supply lines, we also have a few natural disasters, some eco-friendly upgrades to various polluting infrastructure, pedestrian roads, road-building tools that put Mass Transit to shame, and some customizable, modular buildings.

Unfortunately, some of these mechanics imported from the original game (and its expansions) do not quite live up to my hopes and expectations. I made a video describing how the modular buildings and industry areas of Cities Skylines II do not live up to the expressiveness and creativity of the Parklife and Industries areas from the first game. I'm not going to transcribe the entire video here. Instead, I will summarize the main points and ideas, and refer you to the full video if you want more detail and examples.

Full video outlining my suggestion for improving building upgrades and industry areas.

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How Cities Skylines II "fixed" what wasn't broke

Cities: Skylines II ported the general concept of modular infrastructure campuses and of specialized industry areas. But it decided to partially ditch the area-painting tools. This seems like an attempt to streamline the mechanics, but I feel like it kind of makes it more complicated, because now we have 2 different types of infrastructure: there's the specialized industry areas that have to be drawn like districts, and then certain infrastructure that can be upgraded with modular components.

These new mechanics are extremely limited. Industry areas do not give the player any control at all over what sub-buildings spawn in the area. They are completely random, as far as I can tell. Upgrades and extensions to buildings have to be placed in one exact spot, with no freedom for the player to move them. And sub-buildings have to be adjacent to, and touching, the main building, leaving the player no freedom to create decorate plazas or courtyards between the main building and its sub-buildings. Sub-buildings cannot even be rotated to work around certain geographic restrictions.

The placement of sub-buildings is very limited.

I love this idea of modular building upgrades in general. In fact, it was the single best idea in SimCity 2013, and I specifically asked for such a feature to be implemented in Cities: Skylines. So in that sense, I'm happy to see it here. But I'm not happy with the execution. SimCity allowed for a lot more expressiveness in its analogous mechanic, by allowing the player to also place decorative components, such as signs and flag posts, as well as having more control over the exact placement of extensions. Cities: Skylines II's implementation feels a little restrictive and limited even compared against SimCity, and is immensely less expressive than the area mechanics of the first Cities: Skylines.

How I would improve the building upgrade mechanic

I would like for the industry area mechanic and the building upgrade mechanic to be re-combined into a single more robust mechanic. I propose that any building that has an optional sub-building should also have a range circle, similar to the circular range drawn around industry area main buildings. Sub-buildings should then be able to be placed anywhere within this circular range from the main building (assuming it doesn't overlap with something else, and the location is otherwise a legal location for a building, obviously). Each sub-building should have its own pedestrian and/or vehicle and/or rail and/or water access point that would need to be connected to the main building via a pedestrian path, road, rail, or water line (respectively), and could optionally be connected to the rest of the city's network.

This would allow sub-buildings to be placed detached from the main building (but still in close proximity), and would give the player more freedom to place or rotate the sub-building to fit the surrounding geography, or to meet the player's personal aesthetic desires. The player would also then be free to draw additional roads or paths, or place other decorations, and maybe even other ploppables or zones in between the main building and its sub-building.

All buildings with sub-buildings should have a range circle,
and sub-buildings should be able to be placed anywhere within that circle.

Instead of industry area sub-buildings being randomly-generated in industry areas, they could be sub-buildings using the same mechanics that I mentioned above. The player could be free to place these sub-buildings anywhere in the range of the industry main building, so long as they have a path or road connection to the main building. And honestly, I'd even be OK with the industry sub-buildings having to go inside the area that the player draws. Each sub-building should also have a function similar to how they worked in the original game's Industries expansion.

Lastly, I would really like to see the textures for some of the industry areas be a bit more varied. For example, every agriculture area, whether its a grain farm, vegetable farm, textile farm, or pasture uses the exact same farm field texture to fill its area. And that texture looks like a wheat field, no matter what time of crop is supposedly being grown. So I'd like to see different assets for different types of agriculture, such as textile farms looking like cotton or flax fields, and livestock pastures looking like grassy fields with wandering cattle or pigs.

I feel like these modifications to the industry areas and modular buildings would provide the best of both worlds of what Cities: Skylines did offer and what Cities: Skylines II is trying to accomplish. It provides the player with a lot more versatility in customizing how your industry and infrastructure looks and functions. Meanwhile, the range restriction puts practical limits on what can be built. Players won't be able to build a single university campus that spans across the entire map, and the limited range might prevent all possible sub-buildings from being able to fit, forcing the player to have to make compromises and specialize certain infrastructure in certain locations based on the local needs.

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