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The second 'Root' problem

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In the thread at I posted about how there are inherent flaws with the design used. Those things being said, there is a different problem at the root of many of the complaints the users are having. This post I made doesn't sufficiently explain where another core problem lies that 'further' limits the simulation scale.


Fixed, small city sizes, no terraforming, stifled freedom, the fact that the distance scale is off to give the illusion of a larger city, fake population counts. All of those basically serve to try to minimize the input size of the algorithms, and to basically reduce gameplay to the minimum possible.


But as this is a simulator, that seems counterintuitive. Users want to build their cities to-scale. In simcity 4 that is much more possible than it is in SC2013. It seems illogical of the developers to build all these arbitrary limitations in the game; users aren't too retarded to terraform, build highways, railways, and whatever they want. So where do all of these come from? Commonly, a claim repeated many times is that the changes are in the interest of accessibility; the game is made rediculously simple to appeal to the braindead. I regard this claim as entirely false, many systems in the game are actually more complex than they should be. Instead, I continued my search for the flaw somewhere else, in a very obvious place. The clock.


The ingame clock takes less than an hour to run an hour.


This is true in many games. But in this game, it causes crippling side-effects. There is a 60x scale error. That is far more egregious than the 2-4x scale error there is when it comes to distance. There are many inter-related unintended consequences of changing the time the ingame clock runs at. First and foremost is traffic. If sims have one-sixtieth of the normal amount of time to get to their jobs, shopping, and whatnot, that means that traffic volume is essentially inflated artificially by that same factor 60. This is why a one-lane road cannot support more than a few hundred sims! It is also why the simulation takes nearly 60x more processing power than it should; assuming the pathfinding is indeed the bottleneck.


Simple napkin calculations will give you the results you need; take a two-lane road for example. It supports about a car every 2 seconds, or 1800 cars/hour. Simcity cars drive stupidly close together, but they're twice as large as they should be so it approximately works out to a real-life equivalent capacity at speed. Although maybe a bit conservative. Since everything's off by 60x, sims have two minutes to get where they need to go, instead of two hours. Giving two hours to commute is fairly reasonable. In other words, the capacity of a road is maybe about 60 cars. That means 300 sims worth of cars. If I built a realistic small town where the bus runs every half-hour (which isn't unreasonable, check bus schedules all over the world), then that would mean over a day of waiting just to get on a bus! In fact, in order to make public transit viable at all the wait plus travel time needs to be under 10 minutes, merely because of the time scale warping. A trip with two or three transfers, which is pretty regular in the real world, is impossible to be viable in SimCity.


There's other issues as well with regional traffic and trains. The warped time means that if any commuter ever takes more than 24 minutes for a round trip, you will get an essentially perpetually increasing amount of traffic until the whole region deadlocks. This is probably the second reason (along with the P is probably not NP issue) that the regions are pre-configured.


So the capacities of roads are also off by a factor 60. The same goes for nearly every other element of the simulation in extension. Maxis is shooting itself in the foot here; there's no reason to do time compression. Why not use days:hours:minutes:seconds? Give a budget every minute instead of every hour. Have sims drive to their work/home once a day instead of once every 24 minutes. Rebalance the costs of ingame objects, and voila. Suddenly the simulation can support a city 60 times as large as we have them now. 


That means tiles where each edge is about 8 times current size; equivalent to about two SC4 large tile(s). Half-width roads would probably be viable too.

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Great read! I had considered it myself when trying to answer the question of why does my Sim"city" of 30,000 require 4 and 6 lane roads when the town I live in IRL with the same population survives just fine with 2 lane roads (one in each direction).


No time compression (between ingame clock and ingame speed) would be a nice solution. I can think of a few drawbacks though. For example can our computers run the simulation fast enough to make an ingame day not take hours of realtime play?

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How about this: extend the time it takes for typical "rush hour times" e.g. going to work and coming home, with the rest of the day passing as usual. I recall there being mods for the sims 3 created to the same effect, giving people the ability to create a more reasonable amount of time to get their sims ready before work.

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Interesting. Wonder if what Hoiphus suggested would work for Simcity.

Only game I can think of which uses this effectively is eve-online:



Making events like this possible:


In short, when too many actions happen(swamping the server), time is dilated to ensure all actions are recognized. Pretty much like turning off cheetah speed but more adaptive based on computational intensity.

Makes sense for eve, say in the event above, it started by accident inside a "dungeon" that's not particularly trafficked so it was on a regular server node. So rather than barring people from entering outright, or pausing the game as the "room" is transferred to a higher capacity server, the server slows time down to ensure orders get executed in order.

But for this simcity? I dunno, it does introduce a new dynamic which could make things interesting.

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The Maxis coders can do whatever they want to try to fix the 'traffic' problem, but you're totally right about time dilation being the main problem of traffic and pathfinding requirements. I doubt they'll actually fix the problem, but at least this post helps to set the record straight that when you scale time down by a factor, you must then account for that factor in every aspect of the game. They failed to do that here in SimCity and as a result their game is severely limited and essentially broken as a 'simulator'.

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This is the sort of thing I've been trying to articulate to myself.  Good analysis.  


With traffic and time completely incongruous like this, you actually hurt yourself by creating large cities.  There's the normal traffic volume of a large city and then there's traffic volume of a large SimCity.  I feel like this should also apply to pedestrians, even on llama speed I feel they are moving too slow to work/shop.


I really hope at some point someone at Maxis can shed light on this situation, or we see a tweak.  I would find it hard to believe that no one experienced these issues internally with big cities.

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