THE BIG PICTURE VS DETAILING
At first glance, the lot to the right looks great; one big ploppable building, to grace your city’s skyline. The detailing on the building itself saves the creator hours of work, and if uploaded to any Lot Exchange (both official and unoffial), the downloads of this lot would go trough the roof.
It is obvious that lots of SimCity players use the big picture to decide wether or not to download a lot. Then why would anyone spend lots of time detailing his lots if no-one seems to care? To answer that question, look at the lot on your right again. Does it have that ‘alive’ look most Maxis lots seem to have? No, upon second look, this great lot is just a building or two, slapped onto a concrete slab. The creator of this lot was even too lazy to place some people or trees around. Especially if you are (like me) a realism freak, you’ll soon have enough of these so-called great lots.
Now, lets take a look at this screenshot. Just any ordinary freight station. Not much to grace your city’s skyline; the big picture is somewhat dull. But after looking at this screenshot for some time (or after use the lot in-game for some time), you will notice the detailing. You’ll see cranes driving back and forth, as if putting containers onto your freight trains, you’ll see forklifts stacking shipping crates so the cranes can move them later, you’ll see lots of goods standing around for transport. Even though the objects are static, the lot seems very much alive.
TIP #1: THE PEOPLE OF SIMCITY
Every city houses lots of people, and so do SimCities. Let your lots reflect that. Below is a screenshot of my renewed Rock Festival. Here, at the backstage area, you can see how placement of people can make a lot come alive; what is a rock festival without people anyway? Look near the trailers; the rock star is standing in the door, with his fans cheering in front of it. You can also see people walking around aimlessy and talking. To make your lots look realistic, place people in realistic situations. Think of gathered crowds and police officers near a chalk outline, people looking in awe at huge landmarks, people standing in line for municipal buildings and food stands, use your imagination and of course your everyday experience to make up realistic situations to place your Sims in.
TIP #2: A TOUCH OF HUMOUR
SimCity incorporates a lot of humouristic MySim dialogs and descriptions, and why not incorporate that same touch of humour in our lots? In the screenshot below, you can see a car at my SimSafari Park in a very peculiar situation; it is under attack by lions, and there is even one sitting on top of the car. Such details, when discovered by the player can be very amusing. Try putting your Sims and objects in weird places , without making it unrealistic; placing a car on top of a streetlight may be funny, but not very believable. Think of how the object should get into that weird spot, and if it could actually stay there (the streetlight in my example would surely bend over or break). That way, you don’t lose your realism and at the same time add a few chuckles for the player.
TIP #3: DAY/NIGHT CYCLE
SimCity 4 introduced a day/night cycle to the game’s mechanics, and although it’s not seeable in the Lot Editor, many props are dependant of this cycle. Some props will only appear at day, some will only appear at night. Some props will have special animations at night, like the spotlight. Look down and you can see how you can create nice details by using the day/night cycle. At day, there is a line of people standing at the entrance of my Rock Festival. The person in front of the line throws a tantrum at the officer, while some of the other people look at some of the stands. At night, the officer steps aside and the people are allowed in. The only problem with the day/night cycle is that the Lot Editor doesn’t show when a prop will appear, or what its night state will be. You’ll have to discover them by just trying them in-game. When testing, note that the day/night cycle only shows correctly if you choose this in god mode. All-day or all-night settings won’t show the props correctly!
Some noteworthy info about day/night props:
- Nightclub props will only appear at night.
- Commercial Car Clusters will only appear at day.
- Residential Car Clusters will appear mostly at night.
- Most animations will only run at day (exept for things like spotlights).
- Use the day/night cycle to your advantage to create lots that are even more realistic.
TIP #4: SPECIAL EFFECTS
A propane tank on fire and a leaking water tower; seen here to the right. Both made using the Lot Editor’s numerous effect props. In the Lot Editor, these props are indicated by a TheSims-like diamond, but in-game, they can really liven up a otherwise dull lot. From parked fighter jets to blinking lights, and from spawning recreational boats to freight cranes; it’s all done with the effect props. Most of the time, the props name says it all, but in some cases you will have to test it out in the game. Effect props contain animations most of the time, so if you have a lot with only static objects, liven up the scene with some effect props.
TIP #5: FLORA
First of all, by now you’ve probably noticed that there are flora trees and prop trees. The difference is that flora trees really grow from a small sapling to a large tree, while prop trees just stay the same. The question is; what effect are you going for? For dense forests to cover empty spaces on your lots; use prop trees (I never use flora trees myself, but whether you choose to do so is entirely up to you). Bushes and flowers can be used to create gardens (use the ‘families’ for flowers if you want a colourful effect).
TIP #6: LOT SIZE
Last but definately not least; start off with smaller lots, and never build ‘mammoth-lots’ as they are a pain in the *** to detail. Only if you are very patient or have too much time on your hands you might try lots bigger than 8×8, so be warned!