The question gets batted around often enough, “I’m looking for city ideas, what CJ’s should I look through?” – The answer is usually a resounding “Journey through Paengia”. With almost 250,000 views and nearly 2,200 comments (not to mention the trophy case full of Trixies), Paengia is one of the most popular City Journals on Simtropolis, and it’s no coincidence that it’s author has been filling the STEX full of amazing creations since 2009. From scenic parks to modular truck stops, or grungy industry to behemoth nuke plants, Paeng has turned lotting into an art form. And with over 400,000 total downloads, chances are his lots reside somewhere in your plugin folder too. So without any further delay, please welcome Paeng, as the next member of our STEX 100 million interview series.
ST: When did you first get SC4, and what do you remember about your first experiences with the game?
Paeng: I got it right off the shelf on release. Then I got annoyed with it and put it back on the shelf. Until RH came out, now that was quite the day...
ST: Was SC4 your first involvement with SimCity, or did you already have a history with the sim games?
Paeng: Nah, I played on and off since the very first version... but it was always more of a seasonal thing - none of the early versions could put me in a trance like SC4 does... not even the fabled SC3000 ;-)
ST: What aspect of SC4 do you enjoy most – what keeps you coming back?
Paeng: In the beginning it was clearly the region play, then with RH the network stuff... Then, later again, MMPs and all the green stuff...
ST: Before we jump into the all the custom content questions, I’m curious… what is your favorite Maxis lot/BAT?
Paeng: Maxis defaults are quite underrated - actually I like most of it... well, after some cleaning up, I'll admit ;-) The main reason why I don't use much of it any more is the inconsistent scale. I guess I like their grungy industrials best, and still use them a lot, too.
ST: Do you recall the first plugin you installed?
Paeng: Nope. Actually I was off the grid for quite a long time in the early 2000s, until about 2005 or 6... lots of RL, two sons in puberty... you know ;-) So basically I slept through the early custom content era... and when I woke up to it, I started downloading with a vengeance.
ST: What led you to Simtropolis at first? Can you remember your initial impressions of the site?
Paeng: Well, by the time I was getting interested in city builders again, I quickly realized that there had been a lot of batting, modding and lotting going on - behind my back, so to speak LOL... so I started some in-depth research that quickly led me to places like ST, SC4D, SimPeg and many other fan sites and repositories in all corners of the world... I pretty much stayed in lurk mode then - there was so much to catch up with, so many different 'philosophies', opinions, emotions... So for the next year or two I dug in quietly, reading tons of material in all the forums, while polishing up on my playing skills and building up a first collection of custom content - really without any plan to ever start producing stuff on my own.
ST: Describe your progression into the world of SC4 custom content. Was it a particular lot or BAT that inspired you to take the first step?
Paeng: No, it was more a lack of particular lots and Bats - when I started building cities using more and more custom content, I kept hitting snags and dead ends, where I just could not build things the way I envisioned them. I spent endless hours on the exchanges looking for that one piece that would fit. On top of that I was already drifting away from large city vistas, tinkering with more rural settings.
ST: Speaking of first steps, what was the very first thing that you lotted using the LE?
Paeng: Tehehe... I had this sleepy rural town, and there was supposed to be a bus stop with a pedestrian overpass - fit for small town... but all the textues, props and lots I found were too urban for my liking... that's when the bubble burst, I hit the forum wailing: "How the hell can I get this the way I want it?!" You guessed it - all answers were like "Get the Lot Editor", "Use The Reader", "Learn how to Bat"... So I started with the easiest obstacle to overcome - the Lot Editor.
ST: Your first STEX upload was a in June of 2009. You started your now famous ‘Mountainview/Paengia’ City Journal about a month earlier. What prompted you to begin sharing your creations with the SC4 community?
Paeng: Well, the moment I started lotting, I knew this is just my thing... so I started to look around for stuff that I can turn into lots... the security fences were basically a lotting exercise, and the fence props were there, hardly used - because they were "just" props. Then someone said, hey - this is a useful little set, you should put it up at the Stex... So I did, and to my surprise folks started downloading and indeed found it useful.
ST: You have created and shared a wide range of lots over the past 6 years, but they all share some common characteristics. For one, you have a keen eye for the right details and a knack for eye pleasing designs. You also tend to focus on sets that have modular capabilities. How did this ‘Paeng’ style come about?
Paeng: I strongly dislike the grid. I hated the fact that everything is forever bound to squares and rectangles. Now I can't change that basic SC4 principle... but I can do a lot to at least break that appearance. I can combine a couple of 1x1s with a 4x4 - it is still made up of squares, but it appears to be an irregular shape. That is the simple approach I took, and it continues throughout almost all the lots I created. Not everybody uses them that way, but if you look closely, most of my pieces can be combined any which way with other pieces, even if they come in seemingly unrelated sets... That's why I also use as few "dependencies" as possible - basically I use the same set of "essentials" in all my releases... Of course there are exceptions to that, certain specialty items would just suffer if I don't add special ingredients as well... but I rarely 'splurge'.
As for my keen eye - thanks :-) Indeed I'm a stickler for details and not satisfied before I get that tickle in my gut...
ST: A large number of your lots are influenced by the prolific BATer Pegasus. How did you come about to work so closely with one of the top SC4 custom content creators?
Paeng: As mentioned I was drawn early on to rural settings... so the style of Pegasus held high appeal for me, aside the fact that he is a fantastic Batter (and taught me the ropes with the Reader). Add to that the fact that the Simpeg community is smaller and generally more quiet and relaxed than others - something I need for my mental make-up, I'm over 60 by now and the brash vigor of the very young does not always sit well with me ;-)... you can see why Simpeg.com became my home base. My early work is based on the 'Mountain Theme' - I probably turned every Bat and prop of that set inside out at least once...
At some point Peg and I worked close together on a re-launch of the Simpeg site --being a (former) web-developer, my skill-set happened to match the needs-- and during that time we decided to finally tackle the Agricultural Mod - something that had been a long-time topic with some members of the Simpeg community, like Rebecca and Craig, plus a host of others volunteering for work and input and beta testing. The result was the - Pegasus doing the Bats and most of the modding, Becca and Craig most of the lotting, myself doing some lotting and modding as well as the documentation and packaging. Many addons followed, like Becca's Irrigation Canals, my Access Roads, Craig's Agri Industrials and many more...
Regretfully, Pegasus has since retired from producing Custom Content - but he left us the simpeg keys... So Craig and I are sort of commissary webmasters, fortunately supported by a whole bunch of great people to help. Visit Simpeg and you'll know who they are :-)
ST: I think most custom content creators would consider their work a hobby, but like anything in life, some parts are more fun than others. What do you consider your least favorite part of the Loting process? Your favorite?
Paeng: I start with my favorite... The greatest fun is to work with other people having a similar mindset for custom content. I seldom lack ideas - but it's all so much richer and rewarding when you can do it with a bunch of people who enjoy it as much as you do.
Brainstorming, throwing ideas around, solving problems together, continuously learning from each other, or just generally shooting the s*hit - that's what makes it worth all the time we sink into this... passion. Hobby does not really fit :-)
Then of course the actual lotting process - slowly seeing your idea taking shape, pulling together all the right ingredients until there is harmony - very zen.
My least favorite? Probably the time between packaging and release. That time when you're all alone and need to check every lot one by one to tweak little things, finalize LTexts and Descriptions, remove the ballast, make icons, write the readme - the nitty-gritty stuff... that's time-consuming and concentration-eating WORK.
ST: Since this is a sort of hobby (in the sense that custom content creators are not paid for their work), what keeps you motivated to continue releasing new creations for theSC4 community to enjoy? How much do comments in the download section mean to you? Do you get a thrill seeing your lots pop up in CJs?
Paeng: The motivation - that this game is still alive after all these years, still attracts new players, and is still not depleted as far as new discoveries and new techniques are concerned... and that it still attracts people to pick up Custom Content Creation and come up with amazingly unique stuff...
Comments - I had to learn not to let them get to me... I have spoken to producers who were about to leave it all behind (and some who actually did), just because some jerk made a snide remark, or because some troll pulled the ranking down... On the other hand it's uplifting when a comment is really "speaking" to you, taking the time to form at least a full sentence. But I can fully understand that not everybody has the time or is in the mood to do this all the time.
So naturally - seeing one of our items pop up in a CJ is always thrilling - it's the best applause we can get.
ST: You have been loting amazing creations for almost 6 years now. Is there any one of your creations that you are particularly proud of? Are there any fun stories or facts relating to some of your works that we don’t know about?
Paeng: Since you ask for one personal favorite, then it has to be my & - if only for versatility and size, it has something for everybody... and there are countless hours in that one, both for me and any player ;-)
Though most credit must go to those who provide us with a sheer endless stream of models - they are the true heroes. Personally, I can't Bat if my life depends on it.
Funny stories you don't know about? Not really - It's All In The Lots... LOL
ST: Has your experience with loting had any influence on your personal or professional life? Are there any skills that you have developed over your SC4 career that have helped you beyond the world of this game?
ST: What advice would you give to a new member of this community who was planning on creating their first Lot/BAT?
Paeng: Go into Lurk Modus. Get a feel for the community. Read up on the tools - everything you need to know is out there. Search for answers yourself. If you have questions left, ask them in a precise manner. Download lots of files and analyze them inside LE. Don't upload your first lot to the Stex. Have Fun!
ST: Simtropolis is organized into ‘player’ and ‘builder’ categories. Regarding the ‘player’ section, do you have any favorite CJers that you enjoy following? What are your favoriteSC4 ‘scenes’ (i.e., towering metropolises, urban sprawl, rural landscapes, etc.).
Paeng: To be honest - I basically rely on BTT + 10... without that fantastic resource I'd probably miss out on a lot of CJs... so if you look at BTT plus its yearly top 100, then you know what I'm looking at - as much as time permits.
Well, it's no secret that I much prefer rural settings. Once in a blue moon I get the urge and build up some "Towering Inferno", though even that will usally be a seaside resort, or a rich enclave in the middle of nowhere LOL... But mostly I like to zoom in on bucolic settings.
ST: On the ‘builders’ side, do you have any favorite BATers that you enjoy following? What was your most recent download from the STEX?
Paeng: Same as on the player's side... I'm an avid collector, and with the roughly 15Gb I have collected so far, I daresay I have seen most of it - so I know who the good Batters are, if they put up something on the Stex, it's an automatic download... If I tried to list them all, I'd surely forget half of them.
Of course I have a soft spot for all these guys who concentrate on the smaller buildings - mid- and lowrise COM and RES, so guys like MattB or Madhatter come to mind, or the guys who make great series of props, like NBVC or Murimk or Shokthrpy... but again - I can't really single out anybody, there are just so many who make fantastic content available to us...
My latest Downloads are -
ST: SimCity 4 has been out for over 12 years now. Are you surprised that this community is still going strong all these years later? What do you think is the secret to its longevity? Do you think there will still be new content being created 12 years from now?
Paeng: No, I'm not surprised - we have to remember that this game's history goes back much farther than SC4... all in all we're talking about what? Almost a quarter of a century? There is a reason for this long-time appeal - something no ego shooter can ever get near... probably because it is constructive, not destructive?
12 years from now? Hard to say - there may still be small groups of afficionados everywhere, but the community as a whole will be totally different. Just imagining what technology can do in 2027 is kinda... mind-boggling.