Confused should you to do after installing SimCity 4? Here, you can find information how to expand your SimCity 4 from tips to install plugins and essential mods. This guide for all, from beginners who need expertise to get started to advanced players who need to rearrange their plugin folders. If you are layman to SimCity 4, check out the official manual at the Maxis Files for SimCity 4 page on Simtropolis.
The first thing you need to do is installing patches for non-digital version. Download patches is easy, you can either go to the STEX's Maxis Files for SimCity 4 or SC4Devotion's EA Support then select the proper game and SKU-matched patches. To determine what is your game SKU, you can browse to your installation and see what the languages are there and match the languages with the listed region. If you have European languages (such as UKEnglsh, yes because of 8-character naming system; Swedish; Danish and more), you should install the SKU2 version and so on. After that, assuming your SimCity 4 is with Rush Hour expansion pack or Deluxe Edition (the version most people use, due to its modding capabilites and more features), then install the nightlight update (technically 1.1.640 update). You don't need to backup your installation as long as you do the update correctly. Digital version players don't require updates because the game has been updated to the digital-exclusive latest version (1.1.641) with exception of Origin version which is not updated and (worse) unpatchable by any ways, so stay away with the Origin version.
SimCity 4 is a complex city-simulation game. SimCity 4 can be extended using something called plugins. But, there are principles you need remember when adding and removing plugins: keep it simple and be careful. You should not add plugins before you consider it useful, such as adding too much flora (trees) to your plugins while you just using a few of them. Be careful when adding and removing plugins, especially if they're tree controllers, seaport controller and such, because they can cause unexpected behavior, from glitches to even a crash to desktop (CTD). One example is when you customize the default behavior of planting trees using God Mode, you should install only one tree controller at a time and if you want to change it, make sure to erase all trees planted with previous controller first. Make sure to read the mod's readme before installing it.
If you are downloading plugins/mods, you should always check their dependencies. Yes, always because if you not fulfilling the mod dependencies, you'll get unexpected result, ranging from brown box showing up to even a CTD. In order to make checking dependencies easy, you can use BSC Cleanitol or the site-provided dependency tracker (as long as we know, only SC4D Lot Exchange/LEX has been implemented it) by click Dependencies button or similar.
In order to make your raw mods folder (not the SimCity 4's Plugin folder) tidy, you should group it wisely. One method to make mod grouping easy is to use Unix philosophy, a philosophy in programming: make a group to cover few topic well and make sure they can work together, for instance essential mods placed in the Essentials folder. But, you should know there are mods that can fit into 2 or more topic, so you should keep one copy on a topic and delete duplicates in the other topic, and replace it with shortcuts. This can reduce disk usage due to duplicate mods.
If you're beginner to SimCity 4, don't rush yourself to advanced mods. Instead, you should start it simple and gradually advanced. Here are mods you should install in the first day:
Network Addon Mod https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/26793-network-addon-mod-NAM-for-windows-installer/
NAM is most downloaded mods in the SimCity 4 community. It's composed by works from various traffic experts, texturers and BATters (who make buildings). NAM fixes bugs in the Maxis traffic simulator and adds new features & networks, varying from diagonal streets to the tram network. Because of those, NAM is the most important mod to install.
SC4Fix is a relatively new mod but it's important as other essentials. SC4Fix fixes the long-standing bug of SimCity 4, hovering transit-enabled ("network pieces" in a lot) lots with NAM puzzle pieces (for instance, GLR starter piece) causes CTD. SC4Fix also allows other DLLs to be loaded without a GZCOM framework. Recently, SC4Fix is capable to fix the (also) long-standing prop pox problem, caused by a bug within serialization that corrupts savegame file.
Extra Cheats https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/21118-SimCity-4-extra-cheats-plugin/
Extra Cheats is a plugin made by @maxis to originally debug the game internally, but it's release to the public by @Buggi. Extra Cheats enables more advanced cheats, such as precisely set the money, draw the network path and so on.
Crime Doesn't Pay https://community.simtropolis.com/forum/files/file/21339-crime-doesnt-pay/
Crime Doesn't Pay reduces crime to a controllable level and it can almost eliminate crime entirely with placing a @squadron1 of police station.
I-HT Missing Jobs Fix https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/22771-ih-missing-jobs-fix-update/
Due to a presumable rounding/arithmetic error, almost every I-HT lot in the game didn't offer any high wealth ($$$) jobs so far, while still creating demand for R$$$ residents though (description). This mod is the preliminary workaround for that. To be more effective, please follow the instruction at https://community.simtropolis.com/forums/topic/48632-tutorial-applying-the-i-ht-bug-fix-correctly/ and don't forget to backup your SimCity_1.dat before proceeding.
Maxis Prop Names Fix https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/22400-maxis-prop-names-and-query-fix/
Replacement for the famous bldgprop_1.dat (contains buildings from the vanilla version converted into props) and bldgprop_2.dat (Rush Hour/Deluxe version). It's also includes the assortment of building props Maxis had forgotten (aka Plugin_landmarks_and_other_missing_Props.dat)
Opera House Fix https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/21342-opera-house-fix/
Fixes inhibited city growth due to Opera House overcapacity by increasing the capacity to larger number.
Private Schools with Sliders https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/17566-private-schools-with-sliders/
Again, fixes inhibited city growth due to Private School overcapacity by adding the funding and school bus sliders.
Note, DLL files can't be installed in subfolders. For instance, if you place at Documents\SimCity 4\Plugins\Essentials (assuming the default location), they'll not work. You should place it right into the Plugins folder.
If you want more fixes to your game, here are the mods you needed:
Real Upgradeable City Halls https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/31339-real-upgradeable-city-halls/
The default City Hall can't be upgraded to larger version because Maxis forgot to add the upgrade Lua script (in fact, the supported scripting language is Lua). This mod, although not adding the script, allows the City Hall to be upgraded using new approach: using DLL.
Minimize Button Remover https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/28243-minimize-button-remover/
Removes the minimize button. This is useful if you want to make a city journal (CJ, not to be confused with a character on an other game).
SMP Yellow Pause Thingy Remover https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/18680-smp-yellow-pause-thingy-remover/
Removes the pause mark at the top left corner. Again, this is useful if you want to make a CJ.
BSC Funding http://sc4devotion.com/csxlex/lex_filedesc.php?lotGET=621
If you want to be funded by private companies or non-government organizations, you can use this mod. Activating and deactivating are easy to do with a click.
Friendly Business Deal https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/31434-friendly-business-deal-mods-all-7/
As a mayor, you want some money from private companies, but you should ethical to your citizen because you can be impeached. Friendly Business Deal provides ethical business deal that only produce small amount of pollution and radiation.
City Hall MMP Fix https://community.simtropolis.com/files/file/13296-city-hall-fix/
This mod fixes the annoying problem when you add Mayor Mode ploppables (MMPs) to your game: non-flora MMPs have chosen by the City Hall and making the City Hall weird.
If you want to customize the water, terrain, rocks or even the slope behavior, it's fine to do in the first day as long as you don't spend time too much on it. In fact, there are shoppes (except for the slope, but you can Google for it) by @CorinaMarie to customize them.
If you want to install Colossus Addon Mod (CAM), Daeley Advanced Menu Navigator (DAMN. Yes, it is) or similar mods, you should install it in the second day or third day, depending on your ability to control the game. The first day is used for feel the water first, until you dive to the Sea of SimCity 4 Expansion.
If you have constructive suggestions, critics or found mistakes, please send them in the comment section or send me a PM.