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2 posts in this topic
Interview Karoliina Korppoo, lead designer of Cities: Skylines.
Read the full interview at the source.
By Cyclone Boom
General Feedback Thread -
To help pass the time until the Awards Ceremony, here's a place to share your experiences of the new Trixies format.
What went well, and how can they be improved for next year?
As you're likely aware, this Trixies introduced various changes. Not only being the first time multiple years (2015 & 2016) were combined, but notably nominations were accepted in a special forum, allowing you to post and edit them in private. Based on your ideas, the Default Awards List was also created, and intended to provide a suitable baseline to cover the wide range of site contributions.
In summary, here's a few possible possible topics of discussion:
Total available default awards: 101 Custom Content: 34 City Journals: 40 Community: 27
Too little? Just right? Too many? Spread between categories. Coverage of types/themes? Any confusion or conflicting awards? Did the descriptions help or hinder?
How did you find it compared to years gone by? Were the instructions clear and easy to follow? Was it helpful to edit and view your nominations? Any issues along the way?
Duration of nomination period: 23 days (including the 2 day extension). Too short? Just right? Too long?
Interviews To what extent were they helpful / enlightening? Types of questions asked? Format / presentation. More for next year?
Content lists (2015 / 2016) Did they help with your decision making? Were they a useful reference? Should all content have been included in the lists? Grouping per author or per category?
Community discussion How could this work better in future?
Anything else which could be done in build-up?
Too sparse? Just right? Too excessive? When did you first become aware of the Trixies this time? How useful was the info banner at the top? Should anything else have been included? Were the countdown timers helpful? Visibility of the Trixies forum. Should any other banners have been added? Homepage features -- were they useful or too repetitive?
We're always looking to improve the Trixies, and this was really a learning experience for everyone. Hopefully it worked well as a comeback after being absent for such a long time. But like anything, there's always room for improvement going forward.
So if you've any comments or suggestions (even not on the above list), big or small, please post below and we'll take them into consideration. Feel free to post multiple times in this thread to your heart's content.
And of course, you don't have to answer all the above questions -- they're just pointers.
As part of the upcoming Trixie Season, the Staff team have been interviewing various prominent members of the community and asking them about their favourite STEX files and City Journals over the past two years, inspiration and creative workflow, along with life outside of Simtropolis. So without further adieu, please welcome our next guest @simmaster07, which many of you will seen around the forums, or you may have downloaded one of his many mods.
An Interview with Simmaster07
Hi Simmaster07, how are you?
Fairly busy but otherwise pretty well, thanks for asking!
What is your earliest memory of the SimCity?
Oh jeez, I was tiny back then, maybe six years old. I think I was walking through Target or some sort of department store and I was bored, so I dragged my dad to the video games section while my mom did some shopping. For some reason SimCity 3000 was the game that caught my attention, and I guess my parents had no issue with it since it was pretty innocuous.
Of course as soon as I found the disaster menu I spent a good amount of time spawning locusts and toxic clouds. So much for learning about city planning — though I did manage to get SimCity 4 not long afterward, and that was a pretty good long-term investment.
Has this game helped inspire you at all in real life endeavours?
Not directly, but I did learn a lot from Simtropolis after finding it through the SimCity BBS. A lot of aspects of modding tied into my interest in programming in some way, and some of my early content was making tools for things like creating NAM packages for Mac installations or automating city backups. In retrospect a lot of the code was absolutely awful, and that content is deleted now since I didn't feel confident that it would function properly now. Still, that was a big part of the process in allowing me to learn more about programming and create the more advanced mods I've made recently.
Recently you've been pushing the boundaries of what mods can bring to the game, specifically around features which were left out of the game. What inspires you to create these mods? How much time and effort goes into researching and developing these files?
The effort to get DLLs capable of modding the game to work has been an effort that dates back to over six years ago. I was in way over my head but heard that Paul Pedriana was the one of the development leads for SimCity and figured I'd email him about how to implement DLLs like the extra cheats mod.
To my complete and utter surprise, after a bit of back and forth, he did respond with some source code. It was incomplete, but Paul said that it should've been enough to pull it off. My main motivation, up until I got something working, was trying to decipher how to take this code and and get a working program. It took years upon years of accumulating knowledge about programming and debugging to figure it out, and it definitely seems to have been worth it.
Perhaps most helpful was the community's prior efforts to learn about the game's internals, and I stumbled upon a post from GoaSkinmentioning how the PowerPC Mac port of the game had a lot of debugging information left in the final version. Because of how the game's architecture was modeled, this was actually incredibly helpful in learning about the Windows version and the generic APIs, so I'm extremely grateful that the community documented their findings as well.
You also created a patch for SimCity, a game more than ten years old, which fixes a substantial issue that was only found after significant modding. What amount of work goes into finding a fix for such a frustrating crash which so many of us experience?
Again, it takes a lot of cumulative knowledge from both personal experience and the community. SC4Fix requires some understanding of how assembly language works and how to debug a program without any reference code before you can start to build it. Once you have that, it's not a terrible amount of work to build that patch — especially since the TE lot crash is pretty isolated from the rest of the program — but it's still a good amount of work to get to that point.
How rewarding is it when you have this idea and toil away until you eventually get the patch working?
The very first thing I did when I got SC4Fix working, even in a primitive and virtually unreleasable form, was post on the forum, because I was incredibly excited about the prospect of fixing one of the biggest remaining issues with the game and sharing that with as many people as I could, so it was very rewarding to say the least. Even now, over a year after having released it, it still comes up in other threads with people hailing it as a must-have mod now, which is pretty heartwarming.
Your work is a source of inspiration for many. Who's work inspires you?
Insofar as SC4 modding goes, I've always been inspired by the work of some of my friends and fellow modders here — @Wahrheit, @meister1235, @z1 are a few that come to mind, as well as and especially the NAM Team, which has been here iterating on their work for as long as I've been here, if not longer. They and many other people here piqued my interest in modding the game, and even though I haven't been able to get into BATing or network modding I am glad I've been able to carve out my own niche and contribute that way.
More broadly, I've been inspired by entrepreneurs like Bill Gates who managed to lead revolutions in how we live and have given back to the global community after achieving that kind of success, as well as programmers like Dennis Ritchie and Linus Torvalds who haven't made billions of dollars but have still contributed with their code and their openness to and advocacy for sharing information.
(I couldn’t find a way to @ mention bill gates )
A lot of the work on mods happens behind the scenes, who has been someone that's helped you the most during development in the past two years?
I only know of one other person who's tried to pull off DLL modding, and they acted independently for the most part, so I can't say there's anyone or anything in the past two years specifically that has helped me. Unfortunately most resources I used go even further back, especially the forum threads that I used for reference.
Do you get to sit down and actually play the game very much anymore?
Sometimes on really long plane rides, but I find myself more fascinated by the game's internals than by the game itself now and so I don't ever really play the game so much as I have it running in the background while I use a debugger and a code editor to dig deeper.
I used to have a huge Plugins folder with over ten gigabytes of content, but looking at it now it seems I just have the NAM, a few lots, and the extra cheats DLL, which is probably a good analogy for how much I play the game properly now.
What's a quality piece of work from the last two years which you think has been overlooked?
I wish I could answer this but I haven't been watching the forums or the STEX closely at all. Generally speaking I notice @CorinaMarie and @rsc204 contributing regularly and probably deserve some recognition, but I might also be just a tad biased since they've tagged me at least a couple of times and their posts usually give me an excuse to investigate some part of the game internals I hadn't considered looking at before.
Has here been a STEX file review/comment from the past two years which you absolutely love, or find incredibly funny?
Not particularly, but it is also generally nice to see people like @T Wrecks consistently offering positive and constructive comments.
Lastly, what would be your perfect Sunday?
A good Sunday would probably just be doing something new with my friends.
Thank you for joining us! We can’t wait for the opening of the nominations which is now just a couple of days away
As part of the upcoming Trixie Season, the Staff team have been interviewing various prominent members of the community and asking them about their favourite STEX files and City Journals over the past two years, inspiration and creative workflow, along with life outside of Simtropolis. So without further adieu, please welcome our next guest @Tarkus, which many of you will know as one of the leaders of the NAM team.
An Interview with Tarkus
Hi Tarkus, how are you?
Alright, though fairly busy of late—having two jobs will do that to you.
Many people know you as one of the brains behind the NAM, but that wasn’t always the case was it? How did you get into modding SimCity?
I first picked up SimCity 4 Deluxe sometime in early 2004, and played it quite regularly in vanilla form for close to two years. And then I ran across Simtropolis almost by accident, and as soon as I saw the NAM (Version 19 back then), the early prototype of something called an RHW, and all the other content that had been made for the game, I was absolutely over the moon. My first real effort at making content was a set of road sign lots, which were on the STEX for awhile, and picked up a modest number of downloads. I kind of fell inactive for a bit after that, as I was finishing up my master's thesis, and then didn't have reliable internet access for awhile.
Once I finally got back onto the site in late September 2006, the thing that immediately hit me was that most of the transit modding community had seemingly gone silent, and a lot of the promising things that were in the works had come to a halt—including the RHW, which I had really taken a liking to, even in its early state. The NAM itself hadn't seen a release in a number of months, either. I had really come to care about these projects, and felt an urge to do see if there was a way I could contribute.
There was really just one thing I wanted to add—a puzzle piece to allow an Avenue viaduct to cross over an RHW-4 (the only RHW network back then). At that point, the only real tutorial out there on transit modding was @redlotus Interchange Tutorial, which was a pretty intense read. After a couple months of staring at hexadecimal in the Reader, and learning what RULs and exemplars were, and some help from a couple of NAMites who re-emerged from the woodwork ( @Swamper77 was especially helpful), I finally figured out how to get a puzzle piece in-game.
Of course, by that time, I started having all these other ideas, and kept learning more about transit modding to better facilitate them. Eventually, that led to my being added to a newly-reconstituted NAM Team in February 2007. I was never sent an invite PM or anything—I just suddenly had access to a new private thread, and discovered inside that I had indeed been invited onto the team. It was a very pleasant surprise, to say the least!
You grew the quality of add-ons in the NAM through your continued development of the RHW, what has been the most challenging aspect of that project as it grew over the years?
It's certainly been a challenging project over the years, but that's really what's kept me coming back to it. As far as what's been most challenging, I'd say dealing with all the crosslinking between all the various RHW networks, and between RHW networks and other NAMcomponents. There's 33 RHW networks at present. That presents an enormous number of options compared to the base game, but enormous complications as well—especially when you try to add 20 networks at once (as we did in NAM 31—it would have been 26 if we hadn't shelved three levels of RHW-12S and 10C).
What the general user may not know about how we “add” networks (really, we've just adeptly tricked the game into transforming behavior and appearance of existing networks, as we can't add true new ones), there's no high-level programming language or scripting involved. Most of it is if/then statements with hexadecimal pointers that operate two tiles at a time, like this:
The RHW, as a whole, presently consists of over one million lines of that. We actually had to change how we save the file back around NAM30, as Maxis did some strange things with compression that had capped the size at around 200,000 lines.
One of the other big challenges has been sneaking in time for my other transit modding projects. I have plenty of stories about the myriad delays on the Network Widening Mod (NWM), which, in terms of development time, is only about a year younger than the RHW (2006 vs. 2005), but didn't see its first release until 2010. The FLEX Turn Lanes (FTL) project, which is my main area of focus for the NAM 36 cycle, has actually been in development since January 2014, just after NAM 32 was released.
When you took over development of the RHW, did you ever see it being as big as it is now? What feature would you have never thought possible when you first started but that we now take for granted?
I had a flood of ideas come to me for where the project could go once I really started figuring out transit network modding. The 8-lane RHWprototype that project founder @qurlix showed off right around the time I joined the community was a huge inspiration, and I knew from that and the various conversations I had with the RHW thread regulars back then that this was a project that could go on for a very long time. That said, I never expected it to still be going over a decade later. My big proclamation back when I first started formulating the Modular Interchange System (MIS) was that I wanted to have a system that could replicate all the designs in the Kurumi Field Guide to Interchanges. It took 10 years (the stack was the killer—NAM 35 finally stabilized it, though we can still improve it further), but we've basically gotten there, in addition to covering types that weren't even out there when we started, like the Diverging Diamond.
As far as things I never would have thought possible, I still remember my shock at seeing the first FLEXFly that @Wahrheit (then Blue Lightning) developed. That development really changed the face of the game, and laid the ground work for many of the FLEX items that have shaped development in the past several releases. Amazingly enough, the FLEX functionality is going to allow us to break the longtime prohibition on fully-assembled plop interchanges, which will make the RHW far more accessible than it ever has been in the near future.
The NAM had another big release in 2016, what's the development mentality like behind the scenes now?
Right now, the team is probably the smallest it's ever been, outside of that brief “dark age” of 2006. We're down to just three fully-active developers right now, plus a small number of semi-active ones who contribute when time permits, and a handful of testing/power user types.
There are some advantages to our smaller, leaner size in terms of coordinating different projects, particularly as our small group is intensely dedicated to keeping this project going. We don't see an end in sight. The big downside is that those of us left have occasional spurts of pretty heavy RL. Given that we're also still working through some of the ongoing large-scale efforts that were started several years ago, when our development team was much larger, it's really felt when one of us has to dial back for a bit.
Through NAM v32's development, was there someone's work which you found outstanding when you first saw it?
@Droric joined the team during NAM 32 development, and was around through part of NAM 33's marathon cycle. He joined in 2013 and picked up transit modding almost instantly. Even more impressive was the fact that he wasn't afraid to pick up big projects, starting off by getting the NAM to play nice with @Daeley's Advanced Menu Navigator (DAMN), and then being a major contributor to the major Elevated Rail Dual-Networking expansion in that release, working with veteran NAMites @memo, @z1, and @jdenm8.
NAM 32 was also the marked the initial edition of RealRailway (RRW) system, an effort started by another relatively new member of the team, @Swordmaster, intended revamp the standards of the default Rail network to improve realism. While he was whisked away by RL shortly before NAM 32's release, and has only been intermittently active since, he laid the initial tracks for what has become a very substantial new area of content development for us.
Is there anyone who might not have got the praise they deserve for their role in the development of the last update?
Both @Eggman121 and @rsc204 have been an indispensable part of the NAM Team for the last three releases—NAM 33, 34, and 35. I really can't thank them enough for their efforts in keeping this project going, some 13 years after its first release.
eggman121 is almost single-handedly responsible for taking Swordmaster's RealRailway idea and fleshing it out into one of our largest projects in scale, adding the FlexTrack system and Draggable Fractional Angle Rails in the past two releases. For NAM 36, he's working on the long-awaited arrival of Draggable Rail Viaducts. He's also been instrumental in getting the Multi-Radius Curve standard implemented, which has added a lot of new flexibility into the NAM's grid-breaking repertoire.
rsc204 has been a veritable “Swiss Army knife” for both the NAM Team and the RTMT Team. He has a unique and diverse skill set, and an amazing attention to detail. We finally managed to get a NAM release out on Christmas Day with NAM 34—the first time we've successfully been able to pull that off—and I really don't think we could have done that without his efforts. He's been phenomenal to work with on the team, and in the community at large.
You help run the biggest custom creation team for SC4, what team outside of the NAM do you admire, and why?
I've always been a big fan of the BSC. I have been particularly impressed by the way in which both teams were able to streamline the custom content process, which resulted in an amazingly prolific output of really top-notch stuff. As someone who does care quite a bit about functionality, I especially appreciate how they undertook careful research on gameplay mechanics and balance, and used that knowledge as part of their creation process. I'd mention the SFBT in the same breath as well.
Do you still get time to just play the game? Or has creating mods become the game?
Right now, with RL being as busy as it is, and my desire to rebuild my plugin setup a bit more, my SC4 time has largely been limited to NAMwork. It's been that way for at least a couple years now, though I do occasionally get a little carried away with my test cities and actually flesh them out a bit. I definitely do want to get back to actually building cities and bring Tarkusian Cities back at some point (likely with a new region), though finding the time is the caveat.
Was there anyone's creations from the last two years which you've admired?
I'd say the most amazing thing to come out in the past two years was the DLL work that @simmaster07 did, particularly with SC4Fix. Piecing together an incomplete Software Development Kit (SDK) and then using it to solve the long-thought-unsolvable TE Lot/Puzzle Piece crashes after all these years is too amazing to put into words.
Beyond that, I'm impressed with @Reddonquixote's work, @Bipin's bold ideas, and the re-lot work that @nos.17 has been doing on @Bobbo662's old files.
You active on the forums with NAM development and answering questions, in the past two years has there been anyone you've noticed who has been answering questions before you get to them, or giving you continual feedback in development threads?
I'd put @APSMS near the top of that list—that trait is one of the main reasons we brought him on as a NAM Associate awhile back. He's knowledgeable, thoughtful, and makes great points, and has really helped us out with support.
Among the development team, @rsc204 has been very helpful in terms of keeping an eye on our support threads and springs into action with useful detailed responses.
Before his unfortunate passing, @A Nonny Moose always had something interesting and encouraging to say and was a big supporter of our efforts. It still feels a bit empty not seeing him around Modding-Transit Networks.
I've also been quite impressed with @matias93 recently on these fronts, too.
You had a very successful MD/CJ, do you still keep up with the CJ scene? Are there any which you just can't stop reading?
Unfortunately, I'm not nearly as up on the CJ scene as I used to be. I'd say it's largely a product of more limited SC4 hours. I will occasionally check some out periodically—I've been impressed with @Ln X's work, and I check in on @bakercity's Region of Salem from time to time.
I do watch some of the “Show Us . . .” threads fairly regularly, however—as you can probably guess, the interchange one is probably my most frequently visited there, in part because tech support issues sometimes get reported there, and it occasionally gives me some ideas of where to go with development.
While the NAM has pushed the limits of what is possible over the years, there must be something which you know is impossible but would love to add to the game?
Surprisingly, I am fairly content with what we have and are able to do with the game. It would be nice to have a little bit more control over certain network properties—namely, killing RHW auto-connect and wrangling some of the more annoying aspects of the One-Way Road network's tidal flow system.
Lastly, how often do you still read RHW as Rural Highway? For the life of me I still can't bring myself to read it as Real Highway, no matter how hard I try!
Believe it or not, back in the day—and much to my chagrin—I used to routinely encounter folks who would inexplicably say something to the effect of “this looks great, but I'm not going to use it simply because it says 'rural' in the project name.”
I don't think anyone involved with the project ever liked the old name— @qurlix himself didn't care for it—and there used to be multi-page arguments in the development threads about changing it. Personally, I cringe heavily whenever I see “Rural Highway” used nowadays, so “RealHighway” was very, very easy for me to adopt when we finally changed it in late 2009.
Thanks for your time, enjoy the trixies!
You're welcome--and thanks to the ST staff for reviving this great community event!
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