Tag Archives: Cities: Skylines

The Perfect City

I sometimes think back on the numerous, half-formed neighborhoods and townships I’ve left behind to fend for themselves after some catastrophic occurrence led them to ruin. I wonder if the people there are still suffering the effect of polluted ground water, coastal flooding, rolling blackouts I inadvertently inflicted upon them through a combination of ignorance, amateurism and neglect. I’d routinely rub up against some society ending issue that I’d opt to run away from rather than stay and attempt to fix my terrible city planning blunders. This is my endless cycle in Cities: Skylines, the rinse and repeat I find myself in as I search for the perfect city.

I’ve enjoyed Cities: Skylines a lot in the past, mostly by disabling all economic restrictions and building idyllic utopias to my heart’s content, as if some altruistic Scrooge McDuck was financially backing me. But after a long hiatus from being such a prolific mayor, the new console remaster of Cities: Skylines released recently, and I’ve fallen right back into my old ways. There is a big difference this time around however, which is that this time I’m playing by the rules. No cheats, no mods, no deviations from the standard, city-building experience, just pure, uncut mayorship.

It has been an adjustment to say the least, as suddenly I have to account for the fact that I can’t just give the people a fire station to preempt a burning building. I can’t just give people an elementary school, nor can I just take out the trash or even provide a steady supply of electricity. I kind of have to let the people tough these things out until the finances work out in such a way that building that service won’t doom the entire city. It’s required a patience that I’ve had no choice but to learn, but it’s been kind of satisfying to see my city experience these financial boons that ultimately allow for extremely expensive boondoggles that usually result in my unceremonious abandoning of the city.

This is NOT a picture of a city I doomed. This is a nice zoo

The first city I started, Lakeshore, a city with a ridiculous name that Cities: Skylines ginned up all by itself. Lakeshore, as the very good name would imply, had access to water, albeit a river and not a lake, but whatever, there was water. It was only a few months into the simulation before I learned the harsh lesson about how generalized industrial zones pollute the ground beneath it, making that a pretty shitty location for a water tower that would supply a burgeoning city. Not having a hospital really compounded that issue, which led to a sudden drop in the population and the income Lakeshore was enjoying. People were just dying off in droves, collapsing in the streets or not being found until some conscientious neighbor came to check on the smell next door. The snowball rolled faster and faster downhill, gaining speed and size with every unattended moment. Eventually it got so big that I turned tail and walked away towards my next unintentionally dubious endeavor.

That next endeavor was where I experienced an unyielding success that resulted in me being brought down by my own hubris. San Ramos, (again, stellar name generation) was a cozy, sun-soaked beachfront city with a speedy little river running through the starting landmass. Picturesque in its natural beauty, I built waterfront properties, thriving business districts, and a vast logging and farming operation that funded so much of the services and utilities that the citizens had come to love and expect. It was also a place that had significant waste management issues, particularly when it came to wastewater.

See, in Cities: Skylines, the only tool you get to deal with sewage when you start a town, is a literal shit-spewing pipe that you can either output onto land or into the water. I chose to place that output line far enough downstream that it would be some other Cities: Skylines player’s problem. Side note: I find it fucked up that the only option, aside from buying DLC, to deal with shit in this game is to dump it in the ocean. It wasn’t a huge problem unless you angled the camera in such a way that you’d see all of the rivers in the distance had turned a nasty brown, but the water in San Ramos was totally fine.

You can’t see it from here, but the traffic is terrible

As my city began to outgrow its predefined borders, I had to buy up the surrounding land to expand my fledgling empire, which also meant that the nasty shit pipes had to be moved. Not a problem though, it was an easy fix. As the city grew, however, so did our need for energy. The best option at my disposal to handle this growing crisis was by building a hydro-electric dam, which with my overwhelming success as mayor, I could easily afford and would solve the energy crisis 30 times over.

Here’s where I have to mention that in the console remaster of Cities: Skylines, you don’t have the ability to freely look at the plots of land you don’t own. Maybe there’s a setting I could toggle, or maybe I could have just gone to the display for buying more land to get a better look, but either way, I could not actually see the areas of this continent that I didn’t currently own. This is an important detail that the jury should know.

Upon placing the dam down two things immediately happened. The first was that rolling blackouts were a thing of the past and everyone in the city was stoked out of their minds about it. The second thing that happened was that I’d see the icon for “this shit is flooded,” pulsating faintly over stretches of highway that I did not own and could barely see at best. Unable to actually do anything about those locations, I continued on my way.

What happened next took time. It was a gradual thing that I might have seen coming had it not been for arbitrary camera restrictions, but ultimately it was something I did not have any ability to fix. It was too late for intervention. The river of San Ramos flowed from east to west, the latter direction being the place where my city’s nasty toilet leavings flowed away into. So you can imagine my surprise when that same fetid, toxic sludge rolled back through the river, only this time from the east.

Yes, it turned out that the dam raised the water levels in the east enough that they poured over into the river that housed our wastewater, which wrapped around the continent in just such a way that made these two separate bodies of water, one menacing flume of doom whose endpoint was right at my dam.

The brown water splashed up against the front of the dam, settled and collected there. Our hydro-electric plant wasn’t fast enough to process this hideous sludge, which created this massive Ouroboros of shit that wrapped around the entire world, starting and ending in the heart of San Ramos. When that slime finally came back around and made a perfect loop around the continent, that’s when things got really bad.

The shore was quickly overtaken by the shit-slurry we had created. It washed over roads and neighborhoods, slowly and completely infiltrating every artery of the city, painting districts a heinous brown as it flowed across the ground. It consumed so much of my city, so fast, and there was nothing I could do but watch in horror and think about how to better plan for this situation in the next city. Surely in the next place I’d get it right.

So I left. I abandoned San Ramos in its greatest moment of need. I did the mental arithmetic and the only answer was that this place was doomed and nothing could save it. The water was poisoned, the people were sick and the roads and buildings were destroyed. San Ramos was done for, and I got out while I still could. Since then, I’ve moved on to a new city, and this time I’m going to do it right. Surely nothing could go wrong this time around. Right?

Finding Joy in the Mundane

Over the past few days I’ve really made a concerted effort to make my way through God of War.  I genuinely do love that game but have found the toughest part about continuing my play-through of it to be just motivating myself to turn my PS4 on and dive back in.  It’s a game that demands your undivided attention, but sometimes I just don’t have it in me to give it that.  Sometimes I’d rather put on a TV show in one monitor and a more relaxing game in the other.  A game that I barely have to pay attention to and go at my own pace.

This isn’t anything new for me though.  I’ve spent almost 200 hours playing Cities: Skylines, and never once have I played without unlimited money.  In the case of Cities: Skylines, it’s cathartic for me to just watch something I’ve made grow autonomously.  I can glance over at it every few minutes and buy a new hospital or fix a traffic jam and then resume watching something else.


That’s not pollution, these are just thunderstorm factories

I remember doing this kind of thing a lot back when I played Star Wars Galaxies.  There was a lot of grinding in that game, and trying to pay 100% attention to it was a sure fire way to get me to lose focus and fall asleep.  I have friends who have done the same thing with World of Warcraft and other MMO games in the past and currently do it with games like Hearthstone.

It’s nice to be able to play something without having to be absorbed by it.  Not so long ago I was using Car Mechanic Simulator 2015 for this very purpose.  There was something satisfying about fixing customers’ busted up cars.  It got even better when I had enough money to start buying rusted out husks of cars, repairing them, and selling them for an insane profit.  I was putting the best parts on my cars, and using the limited customization options to put a unique spin on them.  It was fun for a while until the lack of diversity in the cars and scenarios eventually got to me and I moved on.

house flip

With this Swiffer, I will conquer this room

More recently I’ve found a newly released game called House Flipper to fill the same void.  In two days, I managed to blow through all of the built in scenarios and move on to the actual flipping of houses portion of the game.  To preface, this is a game in which you are a handyman who is contracted to clean out abandoned houses, paint walls, install toilets and so on and so forth.  You basically rebuild houses for people until you have enough cash to buy some gross homes, fix everything wrong with it, and sell it.

After 15 hours or so with it, I don’t think it is a very good game.  It has some really bad performance issues, a ton of “jank” to it, and it’s missing some really core functionality.  I should be able to see the information for the job I’m doing while at the house I’m working on.  I should also be able to designate a room as a bathroom or a living room so a potential buyer doesn’t cryptically criticize my work while also being the highest bidder on the home.  But despite all of these shortcomings, I really am enjoying the game and am eager to see what changes the developers make to it along the way.

House flip 2

Who says you need to move furniture to do construction?

I’ve had people ask me why I bother playing games like this when all they do is recreate a job I could actually do in the real world.  It’s a valid point, I get that some people wouldn’t find any fun in playing these kinds of games when they could or actually do perform these tasks in real life.  But I don’t think I would actually ever want to flip houses for a living or fix cars for that matter.  I don’t actually have the talent or the tools to get those jobs done either.  In House Flipper, they started me off with a home, some cash, clients, tools and most importantly the ability to paint walls by just clicking on them for 3 seconds.  It’s the simplification and gamification of these tasks that really holds the allure for me.

These kinds of games aren’t for everyone, I get that.  Some people get their fix from grinding levels in Destiny or by building up stats in The Sims.  Sometimes you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into, while other times you just want to play a more passive role.  That’s what these games are for me, fun ways to waste time and still get a sense of satisfaction out of it.

Blog: Slump – 05/09/18


For the past few days I’ve been racking my brain about what to write for today.  Usually something will jump out at me or I’ll be able to conjure up some topic to discuss.  This week has been a little tougher though.

It’s weird, the past few weeks I’ve slowed down a little on gaming and I’m not exactly sure why that is.  Sure the obvious answers could be things like there hasn’t been much I’ve wanted to play, or time constraints have really been at an all time high.  While those things are factors for sure, it still feels like something more is at play.

Maybe it’s the fact that I have 500+ games on my Steam library at my disposal, and instead of choosing to actually play anything, I end up choosing nothing.  Maybe as the weather gets nicer I just don’t want to spend all my time inside.  Who can say really?

When I do end up playing something, it usually tends to be something that doesn’t command a lot of my time or attention for too long.  For instance, I still play Cities Skylines cause I barely have to pay attention to it while I’m watching Netflix or whatever.  The same goes for Dragon Ball Fighter Z because a match only occupies minutes of my attention at a time.

And it isn’t like I don’t have a backlog worth digging into.  I’ve still got Far Cry 5, God of War and Yakuza 6 waiting in the wings for me.  Then I stupidly decided to start replaying Watch_Dogs 2 cause I thoroughly enjoyed that game when it came out.  I think I need like a week off to really dig into these experiences, but even if I had the time there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t just do nothing instead.

Ari’s Game of the Year List [2017]

Video games, lets talk about em.  The year has come to end and it’s about time for me to share my thoughts on the ones I played.  2017 has been a hell of a year, so lets dive right in.


Personally, the game that has endured through 2017 and has been a calming respite remains to be Cities: Skylines. There’s something nice and relaxing about building a new city from the ground up and swearing that this time, there will be no traffic jams. With the addition of some great mods and add-ons that allow me to get more granular than before, I’m continuing to find joy in watching my little hamlet transform into the next Times Square, even if I never play it right.

Alongside of Cities: Skylines, I’ve also been able to return to Astroneer from time to time and see it progressing quite nicely. There’s been noticeable performance enhancements and new feature drops that have made it a delight to return to. As well as that, my favorite game of last year, Hitman, continues to be as fun as ever especially since giving me the ability to attempt the Elusive Targets I’d missed, once more.

Swing and a Miss


It’s probably obvious, but one of the biggest flops of the year in my eyes had to be Mass Effect Andromeda. Right from when EA and Bioware pitched the premise of the game I recall feeling the slightest tinge of skepticism. A story that ran parallel to the events of the original trilogy but also made sure to remove the possibility of ever seeing any familiar characters was enough of a bummer until the game came out. It was so boring and uneventful. Every aspect of Andromeda seemed to be an artists interpenetration of what made Mass Effect great without ever understanding the reasons behind its success. “We gave them aliens to bone, put that shitty car back in, and let them explore the planets that have nothing interesting on them. What more could they want?!” Mass Effect Andromeda was such a damn bummer.

I Think Something is Wrong With Me


I feel so strange. Even now if you were to tell me that I could fight robot-dinosaurs in a post apocalyptic setting with a bunch of science-fictiony intrigue sprinkled on there for good measure, I’d justifiably lose my mind. So then why didn’t Horizon Zero Dawn do anything for me? Everything about that game was wonderful. It looked amazing, it was fun to play and also there were freaking robot-dinosaurs to kill. Many would attribute bouncing off of Horizon due to The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of The Wild releasing 3 days later. But even before that, from the moment they let me loose in the open world, I just had no desire to explore or learn about these characters. I think I wanted to learn more about the fall of modern civilization and where the robots came from a lot sooner than the game wanted to tell me about it. I still don’t know how that game wraps up. Maybe I’ll give it a go in 2018, but who knows.

Along those lines, the game people kept telling me about was NieR: Automata. I was so intrigued by what I had heard about this game that I was desperate to try it. I was told that I needed to beat it a third time to really some crazy shit. But after the first time around I had no interest in forcing my way through it several more times. Another game that I really wanted to like was Absolver. I wrote a piece about my feelings about the difficulty and how it failed to resonate with me, but the quick and dirty version is that I never felt like I was getting better, I only felt like I got lucky.

Bring Your Friends


Some people are an army of one, others like myself are very much not. That’s why the only way I’ve played PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds has been with my friends. We’ve even streamed a whole bunch of it because we play it that much. From defeating another squad who thought they were alone, to flipping just about every vehicle we ever touched, and of course getting that chicken dinner together, PUBG is packed with reasons why it’s the best game I’ve played with friends all year.

But where PUBG is very tactical and requires a ton of coordination, sometimes you just need pure chaos to have fun. Stick Fight and Gang Beasts are two games that released this year that exemplify that mentality. They’re both janky and glitchy enough to where the physics themselves become a new character you’ll have to contend with. But it’s all fun and lighthearted which makes them a blast to play when you’ve got a couple of friends around.

Game of the Year

Ari GOTY.jpg

This year, before most of the biggest titles came out, a little game called Night in the Woods released on the PC and PS4. Night in the Woods is a game that resonated with me on a fundamental level and mirrored a lot of my experiences in life. It told a story that struck me on an emotional level while also having an awesome sense of humor and painfully charming aesthetic. I still have trouble expressing every reason why Night in the Woods was so wonderful in my eyes. Sometimes a game just hits you the right way, and that’s what happened here. It’s the game I’ve thought about most this year and have replayed twice already. Night in the Woods is easily one of my favorite games. Click here for a more complete version of my thoughts.

A close second this year, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is perhaps the most unsurprising entry in this list. I won’t beat a dead horse here, we all know why Breath of the Wild is on so many GOTY lists. It’s an achievement in a systems-driven, open world game. It’s the epitome of “you see that? You can go there.” But the best part about that, is there’s always something to do when you get “there.” It’s truly a phenomenal game and what’s even more impressive is that it made me love a Zelda game the way no other entry in the franchise has.

Where Night in the Woods and Zelda were locked in for a long time, this third entry took me a lot of time to decide on.  While I have plenty of great things to say about PUBG and why it’s one of my favorite games this year, I have to give the edge to Super Mario Odyssey.  Mario Odyssey isn’t a perfect game, but it’s just so damn charming.  In a year where you could look around and have found plenty of reasons to be scared upset or angry, Odyssey was just this beacon of color and positivity that I needed.

Lastly, I’d like to just add one more thing.

2017 has, for lack of a better term, been an interesting year.  The games were (mostly) good while a lot of things outside of the industry maybe weren’t as great.  With that in mind I’d like to thank everyone for watching our videos and reading the occasional features we put up.  You have no idea how much your support means to us.

I hope that 2018 is a better year…  like, in general.  So Happy New Year everyone. Be good to each other.



Playing It Wrong

According to Steam, I’ve put about 55 hours into Cities: Skylines.  While that may not seem like that much in the grand scheme of things, it’s way more than I have any right to have clocked.  Because even after 55 hours of playing this fantastic city builder that Colossal Order has made, not one second of that time was played the right way.

See, when it comes to strategy and city building games like these, I’m absolutely fascinated by them but have no interest in playing by their rules whatsoever.  I’m always really grateful that developers include scenarios and campaigns for people to play, but I’m never one of them.

In the case of Cities: Skylines, every city I’ve created has been done so without any money restrictions.  I like to imagine that some rich benefactor like Peter Thiel opened up his seemingly bottomless pockets and let me build civilization with it.  When you have that kind of monetary backing, you just go crazy and do whatever you please.  The financial information panels were always in the red, but how else could I afford to cut taxes to 2 percent, build 46 fire stations, and over-fund every possible city service?

I’d do this for a while, and then ultimately get bored for two reasons.  First and foremost, my cities weren’t growing.  I lacked a fundamental understanding of how the game systems worked by never having to engage with them.  I never could make skyscrapers appear, or even have any office space get filled out.  It was perplexing to me.  I gave these people everything they could ever want, all they’d have to do is move in, but no one would show up.  I never allowed any demand for anything to build up, something I would’ve understood had I played one damned scenario.

The other reason for my boredom was lack of any real challenge.  Even though I wanted to and totally was playing God, I still wanted a little bit of a challenge.  I just didn’t want to fail.  Maybe that says a lot more about me as a person, but that’s a different story for a different time.  But I just wanted a little, tiny, almost minuscule bit of challenge, so I imposed some rules upon myself.

For starters, I wouldn’t overdevelop right out of the gate.  I’d start with smaller communities and try to link them from there.  Then I’d make sure I was balancing my checkbook, in a sense.  Even though I was rich, like, unlimited money rich, I could be richer if I just was a better economist.  So I’d now try to keep a steady profit rolling in.  I also wouldn’t just start off by building a nuclear power plant or other late game structures right out of the gate.  I made it so that I’d have to hit the required milestones to place certain buildings.

I was policing myself.  Except, no, wait, I wasn’t, I was literally just playing the game the correct way.  I was doing everything I was supposed to, and reaping the rewards because of it.  Suddenly, I’ve got skyscrapers popping up all over the place, I’m flush with tax revenue, people keep going to any of my many well-funded hospitals because they think this much happiness is bad for them.  It isn’t, welcome to my awesome city, this is how it is now.  These new, self imposed rules really were a game changer, and now I’m playing the game the way I was supposed to in the first place.

Except for the fact that I still have unlimited money.  At any point, the sewage could back up, and there could be a mass exodus from my town.  I could fall back into the red and have to tinker with some sliders to get people to come back, but I’ll never have to because Peter Thiel still has my back.  He’s always been there, whispering words of encouragement in my ear. “You’re a fantastic mayor” he says, “The best I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing” he continues, “Please, take more of my money.”

I might be playing within the rules of the game, but I can never fail at it.  At any point I could become unhinged and build 65 airports, cause fuck you, tourism is gonna take off here like you’ve never seen before.  Or build 6 nuclear power plants immediately, so no one ever has to go without power, ever, even if that means they might end up with 11 fingers because of it. But I won’t, because that isn’t fun anymore.

Now I know you’re probably wondering how I could be having fun with the ultimate in safety-net technology right below me?  To that, I don’t really have an answer.  I guess in these kinds of games I like seeing the systems interact with each other, rather than interact with me.  I still want that agency and control, but I want the stakes to be as low as possible.  I’d rather make the city look cool than worry about if the 13th Applebee’s on this block is a smart business decision or not.  Cause the answer is no, we don’t need another one here, at all.

I guess the main crux of this all is that there are games I want to challenge me and make me want to conquer them.  Then there are games like Cities: Skylines, which allow me to tune out a little bit, and just relax a bit as I shave off some more hours of my life.  Even if I’m not playing the game the right way, I’m still having fun and will continue to have fun.  And when Planet Coaster goes on sale, I promise you I’ll be doing the same thing with that too.