The Colossal Order team are back and in this second developer diary Henkka takes a look at the Cities Skylines zoning system. Cities: Skylines features a traditional RCI system for zoning so there’s nothing too complicated that city builder players won’t understand.
We did see some of the zoning in action during the recent live stream and the tools are particularly nice. I suggest you also watch that for additional details on how the tools work.
Hi there, you city builder aficionados! Once again it is the time for another exciting story from the pages of developer diaries. I am your humble host, Henkka, and I am here to talk about zoning. So, gather around by the fire and let your imagination fly…
Oh, and in case you missed the previous entry to the dev diaries, here it is: Dev Diary 1: Roads.
Basics of zoning (or “Why zoning instead of manually placing all buildings?”)
If the roads are the bones of the city, then the zones are the meat around the bones. Very early on in the development process it was clear that we wanted the game to feature a zoning tool instead of placing the myriad of the regular buildings manually. With zoning the player’s job is to rule where the different types of buildings appear but it is the citizens’ (that is the game’s) job to actually move in and build the new houses, shops and factories, all according to the different needs of the city. The player can determine what the city requires and when by using the RCI indicator in the GUI.
While discussing the possible ways to build a city a few ways emerged: placing buildings individually and zoning. While individual placing of buildings seemed interesting and in theory allowed the player to create the exact city they wanted it became clear that creating large cities would be difficult and cumbersome. The sheer amount of buildings needed to place would turn the game into an editor rather than a city builder. Also problems would arise with the needs of the city conflicting with the artistic visions of the player: the player would want to build 10 tenements in an area while the game calculated the city required only 3. Communicating this kind of information that is always changing as the game progresses would be impractical. And as the city grows and new technological levels are reached, the player would need to manually upgrade all the buildings in the city which in the end would mean going through thousands upon thousands of buildings.
Zoning on the other hand simulates more closely city planning on the higher level where the city planners lay down guidelines and rules for citizens and companies to work in. We decided that zoning is the way to go in a game of this scale. And clever city planners can take advantage of the various zoning tools and have more control over the zoneable buildings than just painting large areas if they so choose. For example, instead of zoning the full depth of the zone grid (4 cells) the player can zone thinner slices, like 2 cell deep areas, that spawn smaller building fitting the 2 cell deep restriction.