Installing Custom Content


This tutorial is designed to help new users properly install all forms of custom content for the purposes of enhancing their SimCity 4 experience. Custom content is a broad term used to describe custom lots made with the Lot Editor Tool (LET), custom buildings and props made using the Building Architect Tool (BAT) and the SC4 Plug-in Manager, modifications (Mods or Modds) made using user made programs like iLive’s Reader and DarkMatter’s DatGen, textures made using a combination of user-made modification programs and photo editing tools. Custom maps are also considered to be custom content, but they are covered in a separate tutorial and are handled differently than the things covered in this tutorial.

It is helpful to understand a little bit about SC4 file types when dealing with custom content. There are only 4 types that most users will run into: *.SC4LOT, *.SC4MODEL, *.SC4DESC, and *.DAT. Lot files (*.SC4LOT) contain all the information needed for your custom lot, including where to put and use buildings, props, textures, and animations on and around the lots in your game. Model files (*.SC4MODEL) contain a custom building or prop which is basically nothing more than a 3-dimensional picture. Description files (*SC4DESC) are created using the Plug-in Manager and tell the game, as well as the Lot Editor, how a model file should be used and what properties it should have. For instance, the *.SC4DESC file will tell the game if a building is residential, commercial, civic, or otherwise as well as how many people live, work, or are serviced by it, if any. Sometimes, description files are bundled inside of the lot file. The final and most complicated file type is the *.DAT. These files can contain any of the other three file types mentioned above, along with many other types used by the game. These are most commonly used for modifications, but they are also used by some lot designers to group sets of lots, buildings, description files, and other files. *.DAT files are created using user made modification programs.

So, you’ve found something that you want to download and use in your SimCity 4 game; what next? If available, read the description for whatever it is that you want to download beforehand to make sure that it is compatible with your software and your system. Some modifications are intended for use with SimCity 4 Vanilla, that is, SimCity 4 before the Rush Hour expansion pack (RH) and SimCity 4 Deluxe were released. Most modifications and all BATs and props require that you have RH (or SC4 Deluxe). Also you must be sure that you have installed the latest updates for whatever version of SimCity you have. There were two official updates for SimCity Vanilla and one official update for SimCity 4 Rush Hour/Deluxe. For night lighting effects on your BATs, you must download and install an additional plug-in. All of these must be obtained from the SimCity 4 official website, Finally, some downloads require that you download and install something separate for it to work properly, these are called dependencies. For instance, in order for some downloadable lot files to work properly, you must download a separate, building, prop, texture, or even a modification.

Almost all downloads for SimCity4 that you can get from the major fan sites like and, come in zipped format. Because the game cannot use zipped files, you must unzip them and install them into the correct folder yourself. Included in the zip file you should find one or several of the file types discussed above. Some creators package their downloads in the form of installer files, so you don’t really have to do much work to install them, but it is still good to know how things work yourself. Most responsible creators of custom content will include a readme file that may be the same as the description that you could read before you downloaded the file, but often the readme file contains more important information about how to use, how not to use, how to install, how to uninstall, and known compatibility issues of whatever it is you downloaded as well as contact information to report and technical issues that may arise. READ IT! Nothing irritates the creators of various forms of custom downloads more than when people ask them questions they answered in the readme file.

To install the custom content, copy the unzipped file(s) and place them in your SimCity 4 Plugins folder. There are actually two plugins folders that SimCity 4 uses: [i]My Documents/SimCity 4/Plugins[/i] or [i]Program Files/Maxis/SimCity 4/Plugins[/i]. Unless otherwise stated by the creator of the plugin, you can just install whatever it is to either one, I prefer the former. I save the latter for official plugins made by Maxis, such as the landmarks. Unless otherwise stated by the creator of the plugin, you can also make and install your files to sub-folders (and sub-folders within the sub-folders) in your plugins folder to keep things organized. It has been suggested to minimize the amount of non-functional files in your plugins folder, to make it easier on your system. So don’t copy the readme files, picture files, website links, etc., into the plugins folder — just the real SimCity 4 file(s) which were discussed above. Also, don’t alter your plugins folder while the game is running.

If you’ve done everything correctly the custom content you’ve just installed should now work. If it’s a modification, you may have to open each city of your region and save before the changes fully take effect. If it’s a BAT or lot that is ploppable, you should see it in one of your menus, or if it’s growable you’ll simply have to play and wait for it to grow.

Should you decide to remove custom content, you should know that deleting it from your plugins folder won’t fully delete it from your cities. Before you remove a BAT or Lot you should delete all instances of it in your region, otherwise, deleting it will leave blank spots of blank lots that can usually be bulldozed, but possibly not always. Removing most mods will simply require saving each city that used the mods again without the mod. Once again, be sure to read the readme file beforehand so that you know what the risks are. All user-made downloads for SimCity 4 are use at your own risk, the mod’s creators cannot be held responsible.


SimCity 4 Downloads
Lot Editor (LET)
Building Architect Tool (BAT) (SC4 Plug-in Manager included)
iLive’s Reader
DarkMatter’s DatGen

Written by dhamp – February 18, 2006 | Share this article

Next Post

*NEWSFLASH* SimCity Reborn!

Is this the news we have been waiting for? According to British Gaming Blog the next issue of Games For Windows will feature an exclusive article called ‘SimCity Reborn’. Between Editor in Chief Jeff Green’s blog “I’m not allowed to tell you what it is yet, but will be posting the cover next Friday, […]