Please PM RalphaelNinja or STomnibus if you have any questions about this article.
RalphaelNinja – from a Simtropolis Post “Something Unbelievable”
Before the days of the “Lot Editor”, the above was done by modifying the hex code within the Simcity data files. The process involves modifying in hex, saving, and then starting up the game to see the building. It took approximately four days to create the above; including the Windmill power generator. With the lot editor and the building prop package, it now takes, at most, 15 minutes.
CoxFromMaxis It's a tool that enables you to customize and modify every lot in the game. By that I mean, you can change lots sizes, you can change the textures on the lots, you will have access to all the props and can change, add more or rearrange them as you see fit. All the little crowds of people and effects such as water fountains and fireworks can all be accessed and used in customizing lots. This tool will even create new buttons in the game for unique lots that you might make for your Mayor's house, favorite landmark, or fire station. Does this sound cool yet?
Lots a Coolness
Beneath this quiet cool standalone lot editor is the ability to connect to an engine that roars (unfortunately it lacks a muffler as it is pure power in its rawest sense).
The lot editor unlocks the unbelievable designing talents that had been lying dormant since the release of Simcity 4. If you can learn to play simcity4, then you can learn how to edit your lots. However the fun isn’t just designing your lots, the fun is actually plopping down a revised police station and watching your station buzz with activities from your Sims (or Llamas or billowing smoke).
DoctorVu - Jun-26-03 10:57 AM PDT
You need to check out what people have already done with the Lot Ed. Check it out at Simtropolis.
Dalai Llama – Llama infested farms I think they ate up the grass
Buggi – The Smogger
I don’t think parks will help
Thy451 – Party in Park : Concert lot
Planck – The nuclear Bunker Complex
RobledoRessainance Atlantis parks
From llama infested farms (Dalai Llama), the Smogger (Buggi), underwater parks (RobledoRessainance), Nuclear Bunkers (Planck) to an unbelievable Concert park (thy451), we cannot help but wonder where the limitation of such tools ends.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as the lot editor is the precursor to the Building Architect tool. In combination with the Rush Hour release in the fall, this game will probably be amongst one of the all time favorites for SimCity Fans.
Talk A Lot
In a small dark room of the Simtropolis building, huddled in the corner on Rybolton’s laptop computer are both Rybolton and RalphaelNinja playing with the lot editor. Whispers of conversations can be lightly heard echoing in the room.
Ralphael: One of the most confusing aspects of this tool is the opening panel. It is daunting to see all the available lots to choose from for us to edit. Most had the impression that we can simply start with a fresh empty lot and add whatever we want to the lot including buildings.
Rybolton: Well the manual did say that R$, CS$ lots etc., are the RCI lots and lots with prefix of LM are landmarks etc. It would have been nice if they could have made folders or made it a tree like structure so we don’t have to scroll through hundred of lots just to find the one we want. The search is a nice touch, but the naming convention makes it difficult to find a lot such as the beach (the beach was actually called “lifegard tower” as we found out later).
Ralphael: What do you suppose a “0x1e9c0000 --- A4x9x4_tail_gaiters_1E9C ---- tail gaiters” is?
Rybolton: Pull it up and see. It would have been nice if we could preview the props like the base texture panel.
As Rybolton spoke, Ralphael loads in the tail gaiters and attempts to view it but was blocked by the tall building that came as a default with the lot. Without the ability to delete a building, Ralphael decided to increase the lot size… and found to his dismay that it expanded on the wrong side.
Rybolton with a frown: They should add the ability to expand on the left or the back.
“Hmmm, interesting” mumbles Ralphael as he attempted to zoom in on the tail gaiters. “Looks like the Sims are kicking in the rear end of a car…”
Lot’s Get Started
DoctorVu did indicate that this is the first release of the tool and as they refine the tool, many of the wish list items will be added.
Even though the initial learning curve is steep at the beginning (especially with the nomenclature) once you select a lot and begin your adventures of editing, it slowly becomes as much fun to design as it is to play the game.
The best way to get familiar with the props is to pull up and view existing buildings that you are familiar with, such as the elementary school (K-8SmallSchool_0314), and once you select the prop tab, you can hoover with the mouse above any prop to see the prop name. This gives you a good idea of which props are used in a particular scenario.
Lots are supposed to be independent of the buildings, although with this version of the lot editor, they have tied the buildings and lots together in order to make it simple; there are only four types of lots,
RCI lots, which have a family of buildings that, can, build on these lots, however they are not plopable (meaning that you cannot directly control the placement of these buildings); these lots require that you wait for their development after zoning.
Typically the nomenclature of these lots are R$8_4x4, CO$1_2x2 etc… where the R stands for residential, CO for Commercial and the $ stands for the wealth followed by the stage and lot size by tiles. If you open one of these lots, the first building of that family is displayed showing you the typical building of that size that would be appearing. You can use “Save” which your lot takes precedence over the existing lot or “Save As” which adds to the number of RCI lots in which a building can choose to build on.
Landmark lots are the type of buildings that are directly plopable. Again, “Save” replaces the current landmark and only offers your landmark during the game and “Save As” provides a new alternate landmark.
Civic lots, which include parks, schools, fire station, police station, power, water, garbage, and mass transit (bus, subs and trains), are uniquely functional in their own categories. Thus if you pick a school lot to edit, your saved lot will function as a school. Like Landmarks, “Save” will replace the existing school and “Save As” will offer you your new school during the game.
Rewards lots are similar to landmark lots; however, the availability of the reward lots is governed by the game itself depending on the current game conditions. The menu only offers you the ability to “Save” since there are conditional factors that are associated with rewards.
Lots are the concept in which this tool is built around. Rather than starting on a blank lot and selecting the function that the lot will play in the game, the startup menu offers you a selection of lots to edit. The lot that you select determines the functionality of that lot (e.g. if you pick a police station it will remain a police station even if you added an Eiffel tower).
Here is the user flow diagram of the Lot editor:
- Choose Lot to Edit
- Edit lot (add props, change base etc.)
- Save (replaces existing lot) or Save As (creates new)
However, it is daunting to select from over 1400 lots (I did try counting them all, but ended up about halfway). If you read the manual that is buried in your start menu, Group Maxis-Lot Editor Manual, it will explain the prefixes such as LM for landmarks, and RW for rewards etc, that would probably narrow your chances down to 1 in 10 of picking the lot that you wish to edit (who would have guessed that CV3x4_36carLocalPrecinct_030F is the large police station).
Once you have selected the lot, and its functionality, you cannot delete the building (at least not in this version). You can think of the lot and building as one; even though they are not. However the functionality is built into the building so there are limitations on what building can be placed on which lots. In other words, if you want a fire station to operate as a fire station, you must have a fire station on that lot.
The plopable lots are the simplest lots to edit; due to the reason that once you have edited the lot/building and saved, you may start up the game and select the lot/building for plopping; that is if you have enough simoleons or the reward is available under the right conditions.
The RCI lots tends to give everyone a headache as well as the fact that the Walkup Tower that everyone seems to look for, is buried somewhere amongst those alphanumeric code.
However, what is most confusing is the button called “Family”. “Family” is just Maxis way of saying “a group of”. With RCI Lots, a family of buildings can build on those lots (no not all at one time). So on a 4x2 lot, lets’ say we pick 0x30000b00 --- R$8_4x2, which brings up a R$60x28_7ChiHiriseLuxCondos9_008E….
Rybolton gently taps Ralphael on the shoulders and says quietly “Ralphael, I think your captive audience is no longer captured”. Ralphael glares at Rybolton for a moment before turning back and continuing typing up his review.
Are you feeling that “textural overlay” glazing over your eyes yet? As I was saying, the lot R$8_4x2 has a choice of four buildings during the city development; The Long Building, The Walkup Tower, Bell Towers and the Hogan. Unfortunately, Maxis did not provide us with a Code to Building directory; herein is the problem and confusion. There is one redeeming feature, if you click on the buildings tab, then click on the building to highlight it, you can then press the “n” key to advance to the next building in the family.
Normally the buildings, in a family, are approximately the same size, so creating a new lot and designing the lot to fit the family of buildings gives your city a greater variety of lots to choose from. With variations of buildings on the same lot and variations using family props, your city could be as varied and personal as you need it to be. Is this varied enough?
In the example above, you may notice something strange with the walkup tower on a 4x2 lot. The building is bigger then the lot. In the circle of the Simcity 4 players, this is known as the Walkup Tower bug; is it in the wrong group or is it the wrong building size?
Props are the chairs, flowers, parking garages and much more. With the lot editor, the prop door is stuck wide open, allowing us to see all the props strewed about in a haphazard manner. Some props are time based and do not activate until a certain date, New Year or just between Mondays to Fridays or at certain times. Some are static. The best place to get the last words on props is to read the article written by Thomas Vu the Lot editor creator himself.
“Family” of props
Thomas Vu - On a larger scope, groups of props acting together indicate areas of their city that are affluent and areas that need some work. Wealthier areas generally have manicured lots and trees growing along regular streets, while poorer neighborhoods are dominated by frizzled shrubbery and sporadic flora. These groups of props provide visual feedback for the simulation. For example, placing some dirty industry zones near a high-wealth area causes even the nicest props to look smudged and dirty. Well-off Sims do not want to live there, and they eventually find a better place to live.
With the addition of the “Buildings as Props” add-on for the Lot Editor, over 575 buildings are available as props. You can merge building props with each other creating an interconnected building that looks seamlessly new; check out the mega mall at the end of this article. Remember that if your Lot is not large enough, the prop will not be available for selecting.
If you are playing SimCity 4, this is a must-use tool. Even though it may seem like a game designer tool, it is not. The lot editor customizes your game and as many are discovering, customization is sometimes more enjoyable then playing the game.
After editing you face the same game restrictions as before, but now you have the satisfaction that the trees, parking lots and other props that you added makes the game look so much more realistic (at least in the eyes of the beholder).
After changing an RCI lot, you still have to wait for your zones to develop before you can see your changes occurring in the game. New Landmarks are still priced at the original price with or without your additional props. Rewards still require that you meet the restrictions within the game.
The add on Building prop package, however, does give you access to larger buildings as props and if you intend on adding the walkup tower to every 4x4 lot in all $/$/$ category, the option to do so is your choice.
If you have not been playing with the tool, grab a copy and a cup of coffee (or milk). It is daunting at first, but the more you edit the more obsessive you become in creating the perfect lot just to place in your perfect city. This package adds so much value to the game that any serious Simcity fan should at least own two copies. It is nirvana when you see your own creation come to life within the game.
It is not the tool that is important but what it can unlock for you. To get a free tool that unlocks the game to the next level, now that is priceless.
The Lot Editor Exchange on the official Simcity BBS will be available shortly and it may be available now as this review goes to press. However, users have already used the “Lot editor” forums at Simtropolis to share their lots and it has been buzzing with activity ever since the first day the Lot Editor was released. Without the ability to count, a guesstimate of several hundred lots has already been posted for downloading in less then a week.
If the success of a forum exchange is any indicator, we can only guess at the extreme success of the L.E. exchange at the Official BBS.
If you are reluctant to play with the Lot Editor in creating your own lots, wait for the Official Maxis L.E. exchange. Some of the lots that are available now will most likely be refined and reposted at that time. Adding these lots to your game will inspire you to build cities that only a child can imagine; and if you were a child, you wouldn’t want to grow up.
Have you been hearing horror stories again? In reality, your game files stays unmodified and a plug-in is created for you and is stored in your “My Documents” Plug-in folder. This new definition file overrides your normal Simcity lot definitions. When we speak of replacing a lot, we are only speaking metaphorically. If you are tired of seeing a lot, simply delete the SC4lot from your plug-in directory.
With the lot editor, you get glimpses at the complexity of the game. Pull up the convention center (although it may not be the most complex lot/building) you will still feel awed by the number of props, Sims, cars, parking lots, and the care that went into designing this lot.
Remember, that this is only one in 1400 lots that has been lovingly hand crafted by the Maxis creators. Sims in wheelchairs, Sims that plays baseball, Sims that plays soccer, Sims walking to school; it is this level of details that attracts most people to the Simcity game. Good job Maxis!
DoctorVu - “I know some amazing things will come out of your creative noggins' once this very powerful tool is released.”
DoctorVu – “You guys will love the lot editor - practically, everything you see in the game was assembled by that tool.”
How do you rate a tool? A tool should be rated by the products it produces not by the ease of use or whether a feature is included. If users are able to pound out a lot that takes your breath away, that tool, whether it is a rock, has done its job.
Users are discovering that in combination with some of the tools at Simtropolis, the possibilities are endless and you will be seeing some nice surprises. It will take a few weeks for the fans to understand what this tool is capable of, and once that understanding has been achieved, this tool will be cherished as much as Simcity itself.
I think jbbry232 at Simtropolis sums it up nicely on using this tool while building his mega mall… “Did a little bit every day”.
Ralphael gives the Lot Editor Tool two thumbs up and a rating of 9 out of 10; 1 point subtracted for the long archaic haphazardly arrangement of lots and props.
Jbbry232 – the mega Mall
B-Tek01 – Answer to Two Overlay Textures?
1. Here's the lot of the plaza.
2. Paste the desired overlay
3. Click on one square with overlay and press 'd' once.
4. Then move to another square with an overlay and press 'd' twice then click. This is really important. you'll notice slight movement over the square.
5. Rinse and repeat duplicating the other squares