sunnuntai 12. helmikuuta 2012

Cities in Motion

People getting in and out of a bus
Cities in Motion is a game where your task is to create the public transportation system of a city. The cities in the basic version of the game are European capital cities such as Helsinki and Berlin, but you can build more yourself, download cities made by other players, or buy them as add-ins.

The game looks pretty and works well on a modern PC. It focuses solely on moving people around so there are no cargo trucks or such, but there's plenty of things to do without them anyway. In the campaign mode you move from city to city, and in each city you must complete a certain amount of tasks. The tasks are usually something like "build a line from place A to place B" and it is then up to you to decide how to implement it. You can have multiple tasks going on at once so you can take all the time you need for completing them. This is good if the task is something like "build a metro line from the north side of the city to the south side of the city" and if it seems like there wouldn't be too many passengers between those places. The correct way to do that, then, would be to start somewhere in the middle and to build a line from, say, the railway station to the mall, and then gradually expand it towards the required end points.

A riot in front of the Vienna City Hall
So basically you create lines by placing stops, assigning them into some order and buying vehicles for the route. The lines are routed automatically from stop to stop. The available modes of transportation are buses, trams, metros, ferries and helicopters. There are trains on the maps as well but you cannot manage them, you just need to take care that the people of the city can get to the railway stations, as they are quite popular.

The people of the cities are an interesting point in the game. Each and every little person walking down the street is an individual. You can click any person and get statistics about him or her: where they live, where they work, where are they coming from and where are they going to. Every person also belongs to some social group, such as students, blue-collar workers or businesspeople. Students need an inexpensive method of transportation from the homes to their colleges, whereas businesspeople are busy and rich and can pay more to quickly get to their workplace or, say, the airport. You can also save these people as "customer profiles" in order to check back on them later to see, for example, if a person using a private car has been converted to a user of the public transportation.

The key to making people flow smoothly is to build a network where the vehicles and lines complement each other. It is not uncommon to see a basically dead bus line to start to flourish when a metro stop is added next to one of its stops. People can and will take connections from one line to another if you just plan the network so that it is worthwhile.

Every now and then there are some small events around the city: a fire, a demonstration, a vehicle breaking down, etc. There's not much you can do about fires or demonstrations: they just cut a road until they are over. Vehicles break down every once in a while, but in order to have them quickly repaired you can keep the wages of the technical personnel up and invest into the upkeep of the vehicles. So in addition to creating lines, you are also in charge of the monetary aspects of your company. That includes setting the ticket prices for each method of transportation. When the prices turn green, they are considered inexpensive, and when they turn red, the people think that they are too high. The amount of how much people are willing to pay depend on the current economical situation of the city. If it's going well the people can pay more, but as the unemployment grows the people cannot afford to pay too much. These are all presented as graphs in the menus of the game.

Elevated metro track, passing above the river and over a bridge
The game also offers many kinds of statistics of the city as colored overlays to the map. You can, for example, see where the blue-collar workers live, where they work, where the shopping centers are, where do the tourists live, which roads are congested and where the traffic is flowing well, etc. You will then want to avoid putting bus or tram lines to the congested roads as it will make those waiting at the stops unhappy if their vehicle is not arriving because it is stuck in the traffic.

There aren't many downsides in the game that I have observed. For me the most obvious one is the lack of zoom levels: you cannot zoom as far away as you would like. Zooming in, on the other hand, works perfectly and reveals the excellent graphics. Unfortunately that is not actually the most usable view for playing the game. But there's always a minimap in the corner so you still know where you are. The other thing is that I'd love to get some aggregate information on the passengers inside a vehicle or waiting at a stop. Currently you can only observe individual citizens, as I already explained. This does become less of a problem once you understand the general mechanics of the game, but still. Many times I have found that 90 percent of the passengers of my ten stop bus line just travel between two or three of the stops, so cutting the extra stops saves you both time and money.
Metro, tram & ferry moving people in Vienna

Cities in Motion is anyway the best game I have played for a while. The game is just 19.99 €/$ on Steam, or 39.99 €/$ with the expansions, which I also recommend. The CiMExchange site offers many mods and cities for download. So far I haven't tried any mods but there are some that I will try later, such as the Ultimate Camera Control mod. Finally, there's even a Cities in Motion wiki with all kinds of information about the game. @Citiesinmotion is also in Twitter.

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