For the Eager, Yet Overwhelmed Newcomer
New to SimCity, Simtropolis, or been out of touch for a few years? Wondering what the heck a NAM or a BAT is? And just what the heck is up with those brown boxes?! This article will take you through the basics of registering your game, whether from a hard copy of the disc or from Steam, the essentials of Simtropolis, and a jumpstart into the world of Custom Content, to bring your game to a level beyond what you could imagine is possible.
I would like to thank A Nonny Moose for his contributions and influences on the creation of this article.
Rush Hours, Deluxe Editions, SimCity Boxes, Oh my!
Before starting on registration information, we should make a clarification on just what the differences in these versions are. The short answer is nothing. When Maxis released Rush Hour, the expansion pack to the original SimCity 4 game, they released two versions: one simply the expansion (SimCity 4: Rush Hour); the other, a version that included both the original game and the expansion pack (SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition). It makes absolutely no difference to the game whether you own the Deluxe Edition, or Rush Hour.
Now, just what is the SimCity Box? After the release of SimCity Societies in 2008, EA released this version which contains SimCity 4, SimCity 4: Rush Hour, SimCity Societies, SimCity Societies: Destinations, and The Sims Carnival: SnapCity. The story here is the same with Rush Hour and the Deluxe Edition: it makes absolutely no difference.
In the event that you happen to be a long time player who does not own Rush Hour or the Deluxe Edition, it should be noted that the expansion pack is required to make use of 99% of the custom content available on this site. I will explain that further later on.
Registering and Updating the Game
Before playing, you need to pick up the two (2) necessary EA-released patches to your game for it to work correctly. In recent months, it has been noted that the official EA SimCity 4 Deluxe site has been taken down. So as not to leave these players hanging, some mirrors have been set up containing the assorted official updates.
Important note: If you purchased your game from an authorized download source, you may not need any further updates. Check the properties of the game's .exe file. If it indicates you have version 1.1.641.0 or if you already have version 1.1.640.0, you will not need further updates.
For the standard, PC version updates, check out here:
Own the Mac edition and can't open .exe's? Check out this thread:
Bought your copy off Steam?
Steam comes pre-patched! Yay!
You should apply the two updates to the game in this order: EP1 to fix bugs, and the BATupdate to allow nightlights.
When you are finished, you should check to see that the version number of the .exe file for the game in Program files/Maxis/Apps has been updated to 1,1,640,0. This is proof that your updates worked.
Optional Upgrades and Tools
You may notice on the mirror sites, a number of other downloads available. Among these are new landmarks, new rewards, the Lot Editor, and Building Architect Tool (BAT). These are all optional, and are not necessary for the games function or the addition of but do add content, and functionality.
So, just what do these BAT and Lot Editor things do?
The Lot Editor allows you to construct new lots, using the buildings, textures, and assorted prop pieces included within the game. The Building Architect Tool (BAT) allows you to construct new 3D models, and is what is used to create new buildings, trees, seawalls, spaceships, and everything inbetween. Using the Lot Editor and the BAT in tandem, the world is yours to create.
It should be noted that both these tools have a sizeable learning curve. We do have a number of tutorials here to get you started, the most notable of these being the BAT Essentials Tutorial in the Omnibus.
Unleashing the Game
At this point, your game is ready to go! The appropriate patches are in place, and the game is as optimized as Maxis and EA could make it.
So where to now?
Many players are happy to play the game without any custom content, relying simply on what Maxis has provided. It is indeed very possible to create beautiful cities using only what content Maxis provided. But, many would also point out that the game can be so much more. In the 8 years since the release of the game, the amount of custom content available brings the game to an entirely new level. Players can recreate their hometowns with stunning accuracy, watching roads twist and curve, with even the correct corner market in place. Players can build in the desert, in futuristic settings, or on Mars. The custom content community has taken a finite game and given it infinite possibilities. And the question I'm sure you're asking by this point is, where do I begin?
There are a number of exchanges available for you to browse. Here on Simtropolis, the STEX is perhaps the largest, and one of the oldest exchanges devoted to SimCity 4. The other primary English exchanges are SC4Devotion LEX and the PLEX (now on the STEX). You could say that SC4Devotiion is the high-tech site, and that Pegasus is the theme site, and you wouldn't be far wrong. Most community exchanges both require free registration in order to download, as Simtropolis does. The SimCity community expands far beyond English speakers, however - other communities include German and Japanese sites.
Growable? Ploppable? What?
As you browse the exchanges, you'll notice these phrases on assorted files throughout. The answer to this could not be simpler. A growable lot means that it will grow on its own with the appropriate zoning, as if it were any building created by Maxis. Ploppable lots allow you to plop the building as if it were a landmark. Some ploppables retain their commercial/industrial nature and provide jobs as though they were grown.
It should be noted that at early points in the exchange, you may run across residential ploppables.
These do not work, and will abandon some time after plopping.
So, I've Downloaded Some Stuff. Now what?
Installation of downloads really is simple. This article by our fearless Dirktator outlines the process of installation. Some downloads now come with .exe installers, which simplifies the process even more - the installer does all the work for you.
The next question you may have is where the heck do I find my ploppable items in the game? Some items will be pretty intuitive as to where they are located - Educational facilities are located in the Schools menu, policing facilities in the Police menu, etc. But what about that great skyscraper advertised as a ploppable? Those will generally be located in the Landmarks menu. Nearly everything else (parks, churches, etc.) will be located in either Parks or Rewards. And if you just can't find it anywhere, consult the ReadMe that should have been included with the download. It should state where it is located in the menu system in game.
Brown Boxes, Everywhere!
Uh oh! This may look tragic, but it doesn't mean your game is wrecked. You just missed downloading some dependencies. Wait, what? Dependewho?
Dependencies are separate files that a lot uses to complete itself. If Download A cannot find the appropriate dependency, it reverts to the lovely boxes you can see in the picture above. It may not look like it, but each lot is actually filled with bits and pieces of other files to make the bigger picture. The trees, the benches, the garbage cans, the swimming pools you see on assorted lots are all individual pieces, that come together to create a house, a park, or a shopping complex.
All downloads on the SimTropolis EXchange are required to list all dependencies needed to work properly. If you've looked everywhere and just can't find that dependency, or if the dependency package is locked, please make a post here, and one of our friendly members will help you out.
You may have further questions in regards to dependencies. As with installation, I would like to refer you to another article that goes into much further detail. The Dependency Debate by north_country_dude goes into great detail about the pros and cons of dependencies, and answers a few of the common questions you may have about them.
So what should I download?
Building tastes vary from person to person. Personally, I prefer the drab, 1970's concrete buildings, while many prefer the sleek, glass modern skyscrapers. Because of this, I'm not going to recommend any particular buildings - but I can recommend some mods that are considered the best and the greatest.
- Network Addon Mod, or the NAM. This mod was first conceived with the discovery of an unfinished road network Maxis left in the game. The talented modding community has taken this and turned it into entirely new road networks, gave us roundabouts, and allows us to create true metropolitan cities with roads to match. This can be found here on the STEX, or at SC4Devotion.
If you're interested, here is the "official" NAM FAQ Thread with links to the different parts used with NAM & answers to common queries. If any issues come up while using NAM, there's also a support thread here. Various NAM Team members including Tarkus frequent the thread and gladly help out.
- A terrain and water mod. When you first launch the game, the grass and water seems realistic enough. A bit off perhaps, but hey nothing can be perfect. Not true - modders have been able to create new textures for the terrain and the water, which makes the Maxis textures look like off-coloured drawings. Cycledogg has made a number of varying terrain mods, and there are assorted water textures on the STEX, each varying for the kind of water your city needs.
- SimMars. Certainly this mod is not for everyone, but this article would be deficient if it weren't mentioned. SimMars transforms SimCity to Mars, complete with textures, buildings, road networks and music to match. The work done on this is exceptional, and it sits with the NAM as the greatest projects to improve the game that SimCity has seen.
- Everything else listed here. Livin in Sim has created this top ten list of great mod's that should be essential. A few other members have listed their contributions as well, and I would highly recommend them all!
From there you could look through the CJ section to get ideas or run through the STEX and other exchanges to see if anything "jumps" out at you. As I mentioned before, if you can't seem to find something, make a post here and someone is bound to help you out.
How do I win?
SimCity is different from most games, as there is no set end point. Your success is based on goals you set. For many, a balanced budget and proper governance of a successful city without "godly" intervention (ie. cheats) makes a successful game. For many, the accurate recreation of a real life city is the goal, generally with the assistance of assorted budget cheats. For others still, it's simply to create the best city they can. Set your own goals and adjust as you achieve them.
For all flavours of player, however, we do have an assortment of tutorials here on Simtropolis to help you on the Omnibus. The sections that will interest you most are SimCity 4 Reference and SimCity 4 Tutorials. Check back from time to time, as we do continue to add articles!
Hopefully, this article has helped you get started. If you have any further questions that this article didn't answer, the folk in the forums and the chatroom are always eager to help, and any member of the Simtropolis Help Squad would be more than happy to give you some tips to the right direction.