Right now may be the perfect time to put SimCity (2013) on the backburner until Maxis fixes all the problems (traffic, user agent, always online DRM) or until the modders fix it for us. If you want to scratch that city building itch in the meantime, turn to SimCity 4. Not only does SimCity 4 not require an always-online connection to play, the game has aged wonderfully, it works well on modern systems (with a few mods and tweaks) and it has a decade of user-generated mods and content that has overhauled the game.
The following guide will help start you off on getting the game working from scratch, implement some quality of life improvements, and introduce you to one of the most successful and prolific modding communities in PC gaming. Remember to check out the up-to-date guides on running SimCity 4 and SimCity (2013) up on PCGamingWiki, the user-editable resource listing fixes for every PC game.
Which version to get?
SimCity 4 Deluxe is the version to buy as it includes the Rush Hour expansion pack, necessary for keeping up to date with mods and fixes for the game developed by the community. Currently the Steam price is a mere £9.99/ €9.99/$19.99 on Steam, although the US will find it slightly cheaper on Amazon.com’s direct download service for $16.94 at time of writing. You can keep up to date on the best digital prices SimCity 4 Deluxe on CheapShark.
The recently developed SC4 Launcher utility created by Logic_Bomb is the most comprehensive way of getting SimCity 4 working correctly on a modern system. Options you’ll want to enable are:
Auto-save – even with compatibility fixes enabled, the game will crash – enable this if you don’t want to lose progress.
Custom resolutions – breakout from the standard 4:3 resolution to go up as high as 1920×1080.
Intro – disable to save time.
CPU core affinity to ’1′ – disabling multiple CPU cores improves stability and decreases performance, but it’s likely your PC will be able to handle it.
Combined launch options
If you don’t want to install the additional launcher program, you can get most of the fixes by appending this to the shortcut target or the Steam launch options:
-CustomResolution:enabled -r1920x1080x32 -intro:off -CPUCount:1 -w
However, you’ll be missing out on the essential Auto-save feature which SC4Launcher provides.
Borderless fullscreen windowed mode
For seamless fullscreen alt+tabbing, use ShiftWindow to stretch a windowed screen to fullscreen. Simply set the game resolution to native resolution, enable windowed mode and then select the Window Title ‘SimCity 4′ and ‘Trigger it’.
Save game cloud syncing
Save game are kept in this location:
%USERPROFILE%\My Documents\SimCity 4\Regions
It’s highly recommended to enable save game cloud syncing through a service like Dropbox. You can use GameSave Manager‘s Sync & Link function to ‘symlink’ your cities straight your Dropbox, and never have to worry about losing progress due to hardware failure again.
Network Addon Mod
The Network Addon Mod, commonly known as the NAM, is an essential set of community fixes. Its focus is on fixing the broken traffic and pathfinding problems, and adding new transport tools, such as highway onramps, overpasses, roundabouts, ground light railway and turning lanes. The recently released v31 brings together a number of useful plugins to form a slick single package.
The extensive modding communities have really gone to town with huge numbers of mods and cosmetic changes to the game.
CAM – Colossus Addon Mod, is the most extensive of these additions by adding growth stages (lots) to buildings. In order to download the CAM and to download more lots, known as CAMeLots, you will have to register an account with the LEX (Lot Exchange) which is an enormous resource run by the SC4 Devotion community.
ST/Exchange (SimTropolisEXchange) is the other modding resource which is therun by Simtroplois community. This resource is well-organised and easy to get into, and hosts a huge number of modifications, changes and additions to the game, and is another service that requires registration.
Generally speaking, mods (.dat files) are placed in the folder:
%USERPROFILE%\My Documents\SimCity 4\Plugins
On top of the essential installation of NAM and CAM, I personally recommend installing these mods:
Radius Doubler – doubles the range of services such as schools, police, fire, clinics and hospitals, making city expansion a much simpler.
IH Missing Jobs Fix – fixes issue where industrial high-tech lots do no offer high wealth jobs.
Many thanks to SimCoug, VanadiumBromide, CaptRobau and xonedl, members of the Simtroplois community, for letting me use their screenshots, and for mod creators, whose work is being featured.