Hello simtropolis, it's been awhile but after a long adjournment I'm finally back with some new content. For those who many not be aware back in October my SC4(and windows) hard drive(SSD) crashed. This eliminated everything I had created after entry 35 on this Journal. Feb 2016 was the last time I backed everything up(plugins, cities, pictures, etc) on a separate hard drive. Foolish, I know. It's not that I overlooked the possibility of a hard drive crash, in fact all my important personal stuff is backed up on separate drive and some of that is even backed up a second time on bluray discs. I backed my SC4 cities on weekly basis but for some strange reason at some point in time, I can't recall why (or understand), I moved that backup folder onto the SSD drive. So while I was still well prepared for save file corruption I was not prepared for hard drive corruption.
The rest of what follows would probably qualify as TMI so I've have put it in spoilers since most of it is not exactly SC4 related and it kind of bogs down this entry. Most of you are understandably here for pics so this way you can get right to them. Note; Entry number 43 is reserved as a placeholder in case I'm one day able to recover the data that was meant to be shown in that entry.
The computer issues...
I probably should have expected the drive to crash as my computer was intermittently crashing or freezing on average a couple times a month for about two years. One particular program - Jet Audio, was causing a lot of those crashes/freezes. I keep my computer always on and not closing that program overnight would often result in the computer being frozen the next morning. I'm no computer expert but it seemed rather bizarre to me that a media player could do that and even more strangely it only happen when it was not actually playing music! So eventually I remembered to always close Jet Audio before going to sleep. But then suddenly firefox, which I also have running continuously as my primary browser started causing my computer to crash as well. Might of had something to do with the 500+ tabs I had open on at once(wtf I know). Then one day the computer froze when I tried to go into taskmanager to shut down firefox which was frozen itself. I had no other option but to pull the plug and when I turned the computer back on bios didn't recognize drive C:
Let me tell you, rebuilding your operating system hard drive is a royal pain in the arse. Reinstalling the operating system is the easy part, it's getting and installing all the 50 or so other programs I had on it. The good news is since the clean install in November the computer hasn't crashed once. I no longer use Jetaudio or Firefox but I also didn't overclock it this time, I'm wondering if that might of been what was really causing the instability. Back when I first got the computer it was heavily overclocked, it ran fine for a couple weeks but then it started crashing like crazy once every couple days. The vendor told me to reduce the overclock and it ran perfectly for a couple years before it started crashing again but much more infrequently due to those programs that I mentioned above. Anyhow, I sent the damaged drive to a SDD recovery specialist. I heard promising news at first but then the wait started. I couldn't work on anything SC4 related until I knew what was up with the drive. It wasn't until almost 2 months later shortly before Christmas that they told me the drive was damaged beyond recovery. Thanks for nothing. But since they had a no cost assessment it at least didn't cost me anything. Had they been able to fix it the price would of been about 2000$ for parts and labor. A sum I would of actually been willing to pay at the time considering how many hundreds of hours of work(maybe even over a 1000) the data on that drive encompassed. But I wouldn't pay that now because my life no longer revolves around SC4.
A little bit about my life...
Having said all that however, believe it or but I can actually say without a doubt that 2016 was one of the best years of my life. First off I did get to show most of what I wanted in terms of my SC4 work over the course of 20 entries and clearly it was very well received by the community - so thank you very much for your support! Yeah it was really crappy to have the drive crash and I felt bummed out at not being able to work on what I wanted to in SC4 but I did have an epiphany of sorts thanks to it. I realized very clearly for the first time that it was probably time for me to move on, that I should no longer indefinitely stay inside my little "bubble of hobbies".
Ok so what do I mean by that? Well lets start from the beginning.
Stop me if you heard this before but it's along story... after a failed relationship with the women I thought I would spend my life with several years back I lost all interest in being in a relationship. She was a young attractive university student with and it didn't take long for me to fall for her. She was not my first girlfriend but it was the first time that I truly put everything I had into a relationship. But after our first year together things started to change. She became more and more controlling and by the end of our second year before I realized it my life was completely focused on her to the detriment of everything else including my friends, family and the many hobbies I loved. Pretty on the outside but controlling, narcissistic and materialistic on the inside, but who am I to criticize everyone has their flaws right. Having said that I don't actually regret that relationship even though a lot of things changed for the worst because of it. For one I'm of the opinion it's better to have loved once than not to have loved at all and secondly I gained some invaluable life experiences.
Anyways after that I decided to never again let anything or anyone get in the way of those hobbies which amounted to working on all things SC4 related, playing video games, watching/reading anime/manga, urban exploration, railfanning and religiously following my favorite sports teams and my music. I had a decent work life balance at first and I was able to accomplish some major life goals, such as buying my first place and eventually getting rid of all my debt. But then I was involve in an accident at work and I ended up being off work for over a year(from the end of 2014 and most of 2015). By then I had dropped a few hobbies such as urban exploration, railfanning & following skyscraper construction which I had spent much time on. So what ended up happening is I basically intentionally became a Hikikomori lol. Well I guess that's not entirely accurate, because I did still leave the house occasionally during that time to visit my family and this one friend which I managed to keep after losing most of them because of that ex. But I had absolutely no interest in meeting anyone new or trying anything new. My online life prospered though, in fact I'd found that I'd much rather talk with people through that means. I suppose that's really not all that unusual in this day and age.
Anyhow at first I couldn't come back to work quickly due to the incident but eventually that changed from not being able to come back to not wanting to come back. I mean now I had an extra 40 hrs a week to spend on my hobbies! Over that period I probably spent about 5,000+hrs playing video games, mostly SC4 and BATing for the game all the while listening to the music I loved all day long. Ever since my late teens I have always had goals for the future that I'm chasing for myself. Being off work allowed me to accomplish one the biggest of those goals and one that I otherwise would never have been able to accomplish - that is creating a CJ for my favorite game of all time. Additionally I would never have been able to interacted with all of you on here. In that time I also managed to watch about 2,500 anime episodes, there was just so many series that I had been meaning to watch for years and it was great to finally catch up on them. There is always good and bad to every situation. So as bad as it may sound I don't regret being a lazy bum for about a year lol. The fact that there was almost no pressure for me to come back to work made it all the harder to actually come back. But I knew that eventually I had too of course, living the life of a teenager more than 10 years after the fact is not generally acceptable behavior. I was quite nervous when I did finally return to work but eventually things started to become normal again and now I'm certainly more than glad that I returned to being a productive member of society.
So how does all the above relate to what happened with my hard drive crash? Well outside of going back to full time work things kinda stayed more or less the same. I still had goals for the future but most of those have a monetary attachment to them i.e. paying off the mortgage, buying a new car which I finally did two months ago(and I love it!) So those things will naturally happen thanks to the job. My free time however was still dedicated almost entirely to simcity, music & anime. When the drive crashed and I couldn't play SC4 anymore that's when it kind of hit me, just how much of a self indulgent life I was living and I've come to realize that it's probably time for me to slowly wind down those things. It wouldn't be possible for me to completely stop but I'll be spending less and less time on those. In that void that SC4 left I started going out and interacting with people more. I even started dating again for the first time in years which has been interesting to say the least and I've found a better balance between my hobbies and my relationships/obligations, neither one dominates over the other anymore.
Sp essentially this is my CJ retirement speech, just about 12 month or so in advance lol. I won't be anywhere near as active on the CJ and site as I was last year but I'll still come around often enough to be considered a regular member. I was hoping to publish a dozen entries in the journal this year covering the large city tile of Calgon which is the next city I was going to show after Baycole and the only one for which I miraculous had a recent backup of on a separate drive for some reason. Though considering how long it's taken me to get this entry finished, 10 entries for 2017 will likely be my upper limit. After Calgon is the city of Astoria, don't know yet if I'll have the time or patience to rebuild it. I might just have a couple final entries of that city in 2018 instead of the original dozen or so planned for it and then likely that will be the end of the region, the CJ and maybe my SC4 playing time. It's sad to think about but a lot of things can change between now and then, I'll be interesting to see which direction my life takes me
What was lost...
I find plugin and game modification to be a little tedious. As such I can't force myself to work on it, I can only work on them when the mood strikes me which it rarely does but it finally did last week. So I was able to remake the following of what was lost;
-A set of about 2 dozen different custom sidewalk and several cement texture mods, remade most of these.
-A set of custom embankment lots, remade some of these.
-Street tree modification mod, haven't remade it yet but definitely planning on it.
-Completely rebuild of my mmp folder. One of the biggest loses, if only because of how long it took me to do it the first time around. Surprisingly it wasn't as hard or boring to do the second time around. thus it has been remade!
-All my SC4 photo's. Well the best ones are basically the ones I've posted online in my CJ so while it was kinda of neat for me to see how my building style was like years ago I really didn't lose much in the way of quality work there.
-Old version of my cites. Again it was kinda of cool to loadup my old cities and check them out, but really the latest version of every city is always going to be the best version so again not a big loss
-About 2 gb of plugins I had in my K4L folder short for "Keep for Later" meaning I had tried out these plugins but found no current use for them however they might be useful in the future. Not to big of a loss because I almost never ended up using stuff from that folder.
The Important Stuff;
-my city map project 200+ hours of work... good news is I have all the finished maps online, bad news is they're not in the highest quality. Not sure if I'll continue with the rest of the region so this project might be cancelled
-About a 100 hrs of work on Astoria and another 50 hrs on Calgon, two large sized city tiles I've yet to show. I've been working on Calgon the last few days and I've rebuilt most of that city.
-Somewhere between 250 to 300 hours of work on Baycole, basically the whole city all that was seen in entries 37-42 and then some. I had one more entry to go which would of been similar in scale and quality to entry 42 so it sucks to lose that but I've since realized that I'm ok with losing everything else. Why? Well because I already showed it to you! In any case I'm am going to skip an entry # in the CJ just in case I get the city back. I figure some time in the future maybe a year or so from now, I'll try to get the hard drive fixed again. Hopefully the recovery technology for SSD drives will improve and the price will drop! Hence why this is entry 44 and not 43, which will be reserved for that last entry of Baycole in the unlikely event it is recovered.
-100+ hrs of work transferring over putting the finishing touches and rendering the 3DS versions of nearly all my lattice tower BAT's. Good news is I still have all the gmax version. So I don't have to recreate them from scratch, thanks god cause that would of probably taken me well over a 1000 hours to remake. Yet to start but will eventually.
- Unfortunately I never made a backup of that "right-of-way hydro bat project" It's a complete loss, so it's release is cancelled
Now onto today's subject matter which will cover what is probably going to be the largest and most complicated interchange in the entire region of Pretoria - The 5 Point's Interchange.
This interchange is located in the City of Calgon which is just west of Baycole and north of Dresden. It think I came up with the name Calgon from Calgary, but at this point I can't remember
The interchange is the junction between Highways 700, 702 & 707 and as it's name suggests it is a 5 way interchange. This is the first RHW rebuild of this interchange. I say first because there is a second rebuild of the interchange which features no tunnels and is much more streamlined in appearance. But it's so different from this one that it's basically an entirely different interchange and this version is so massive that it would be a shame to not showcase it.
edit* For a better understanding of the network I'm adding the regional highway map here;
This entry was incredibly difficult to make. It seems the save file for the city is highly unstable/incompatible with my current plugins folder or something. In the process of rebuilding this interchange the game crashed about 50 or so times in the last several weeks which severely hampered my progress. I've encounter errors and crashes which I had never seen or even heard about before. The numerous ways the game crashed on me are listed below, I've also placed this in the spoiler to shorten the dialog that is relevant to the point of this entry;
- the simple act of opening a menu like landmarks or parks would occasionally crash the game
- taking a screenshot would occasionally crash the game, more often when in night mode
- clicking on buildings, which were otherwise perfectly fine meaning I could click on them with no issues at first but then the second or third time I clicked on it the game would crash
- changing the terrain level using the smallest tool and by the smallest amount on a single tile would crash the city, again this was a weird crash because it would ok to do this on the exact same spot sometimes but then then the next time I reloaded the city and did this to the very same spot the game would crash
- random freezing(crash) while scrolling
- freezing(crash) after saving
- worst of all I suddenly developed prop pox for the first time in 13 years of playing SC4 after saving one time, but strangely enough it only effect 1/3rd of the city basically all lots on the east side of the city. Afterwords the pox did not spread but for a time new lots that I plopped anywhere in the city would also have the pox after I saved and reloaded the city, props on those lots would be missing. But then just as suddenly the pox stopped happening on new lots
But somehow through all that and more I persevered to this projects completion. Lets just say I'll never touch that city save file again lol.
So where to begin with this one... how about with a map of the entire interchange and how it compares to the previous record holder of the title of the regions largest interchange - Spaghetti Junction. All maps are the exact same scale.
Spaghetti Junction(newest & more compact version) vs 5 points.
And the old Spaghetti Junction which was larger vs 5 points
vs The 5 points <---- is north
One of the reasons why creating maps of interchanges interest me so much is long ago even well before I ever played sim city when I was maybe 10 year old I was completely mesmerized by city maps and the most interesting part of those city maps were where all those squiggly and curved lines which converged in tiny areas - interchanges. Afterword I would create random huge interchange designs on paper, wish I still had those but they disappeared long ago most likely throw away as junk by my parents
Ok let's go through the interchange from south to north starting from the 702 Northbound at the south portal.
Highway 702 comes from Dresden and the South Shore borough of Pretoria. There is also one other(very large) interchange between the 5 Points and Dresden in Calgon that I'll show later. The 702 is highly congested at this point being only 4 lanes across. In the final version of 5 points this section has been upgrade to 6 lanes. The Fastraxx ME(Middle East) Commuter Rail line can be see at the top running underneath the highway in a tunnel before reaching Calgon (Central) Station while the L(Loop) line runs over the highway at the bottom of the image. For a refresher on commuter rail the network click HERE. Meanwhile ICR's freight line is on the right hand side of this image.
Now here is where things start to get messy. The first lane at the top of the image is a local off ramp from the 702. Next is the EB 707 to SB 702 ramp. Then a local on-ramp, followed by 4 lanes of the 702 itself, then the NB 702 to EB 700/707 & NB 707 ramp and then finally a local off ramp.
4. (note: image number count does not include the road maps)
The next off ramp is the NB 702 to WB 707 which takes you directly into downtown Calgon.
Overview of the Southern portal to the interchange.
8. The NB 702 to WB 700 ramp is the tallest ramp in the interchange and is 45m/148ft above the lowest part of the interchange about 50m/164ft above the lowest tunnel.
9. Crossing over the 700
Overview of the Eastern portal of the interchange. The 700/707 is up to 13 lanes wide in this section and from here continues on to Spaghetti Junction in Lindin City.
Next we come to my favorite portion of the interchange, the central section. This maps shows the 7 levels of the interchange + arguably a 8th level for one of the tunnels.
What little help this may be, it explains the purpose of each overhead ramps and the routing of the tunnels which are functional for cars and buses but not trucks. Yup it's a little on the complicated side
7 levels of interchange in one image. Can you make out all the height transitions in there? Hint; there's 13
Moving further north we get to the point where the 700 crosses over the 702
And then we get to the second big section of cluster of ramps. I'm not sure it would help to talk about which ramp goes where, probably best just to look at panoramic shots at the bottom of the entry to make sense of it all.
18. The 700 crossing over the 3 rail lines with exit ramps going both over and under it, one of my favorite images
This would be the western portal of the interchange.
Back to the 702 which now turns into a collector/express highway system.
This leads us to the final part of the interchange the northern gate and the boundary to Astoria, which takes us to the downtown area of Pretoria.
Aside from those sharp level 3 RHW curves, which hopefully will be smooth out in the future, I'm quite satisfied with the look and compactness of this section.
You may have noticed a few other unusual things up there and kudos to you if you noticed all four
The most obvious one is probably that one way bridge in there which might seem odd because it looks a little different from the rhw roads above and below it. I could of used a rhw overpass but then there wouldn't have been enough space to transition into the one-way road tunnel. I suppose I could of just built the rhw bridge just for eye candy purposes but I wanted to show the interchange in it's functional configuration. That is every path is usable by sims, although I'm having a heck of a time trying to get them to take some of those paths, seems they'd rather be stuck in traffic on local roads then take the express out of town.
I had to use a subway portal where the level 3 RHW crosses the the 3 railway tracks. It might look a little strange but it's much better than the alternative. Seems the level 3 RHW can't cross over 3 consecutive rail lines, it drops to a ground level crossing for the one in the middle which would of course look ridiculous. Meanwhile the subway portal ensure functionality on the railway line in the middle since passenger trains can turn into subway turns and vice versa without issue. The freight line on the top remains functional as well.
It was very difficult to create this interchange because of all the grade changes over it's length, which resulted in the irregular ripples on the maxis highway curve. For those who don't know grade changes and the RHW go together like oil and water, thankfully with each version of the NAM terrain stability continues to improve. The original footprint of the maxis interchange that came before was much smaller so the city was originally built without realizing that one day I would need much more space for an interchange. For the final version of the 5 points I'm building I completely leveled out the terrain and started from scratch againt to build a fully accessible version without the use of tunnels.
Lastly I had to use one of the old 45 degree flex fly ramps because the new piece is one zone large(5x5 as opposed to 4x4). That tiny little difference would otherwise have resulted in major changes to the interchange and a large expansion of its overall footprint. I know many rhw users might of been fine with that since highway interchange are space consuming objects, but I pride myself on building the tightest possible interchange while using smooth curves and transitions as much as possible. I had to modify the NAM files in order for this legacy piece to still show up in game. While I can't plop them anymore they won't disappear, which is what would happen if I didn't modify the file and more importantly they are still completely functional.
Next a few night shots to show that there is sufficient lighting around the interchange. Even though you may not know how to get to where you want to be you can at least see where your going!
Now time for a little something I call the "eye spy" section... Let me know if you like this new section.
And finally, of course the mosaics. For reference sake I put the the original maxis version of the interchange that I set out to replace long ago in the spoilers below.
Note that only things left from back then is the rail line and the townhouse subdivision on the left.
Thanks for stopping by, it feels good to get the CJ up and running again.