back to article SimCity 4

There’s a prevalent feeling throughout the whole of SimCity 4 that this is the game that Will Wright and Maxis would have liked to have made from day one. That is if graphics technology and PC hardware had been up to the task when the original SimCity was in development. The 2003 release was expanded in both the macro and the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    In a foreshadowing of the new Sim City game, this was a much anticipated release. And my recollection is that it was broken from day 1.

    I made the mistake of buying it early. Boy did it crash! Just used to fall over with no warning meaning regular saves were a must. Also had a problem with some of the bigger buildings never appearing. My recollection is also that although I that I had decent new hardware the game wasn't exactly quick.

    IIRC it also lacked subways which wasn't the end of the world but annoying.

    I understand it was patched in the end but by then I had grown bored of it. It all rather pales into insignificance against the current games problems anyway.

    1. solidsoup

      Re: Broken

      I think the word broken is a lot more appropriate for the new release.

      Come on Register! Enough of the appetizers. When are you coming out with the review of the new game? (I assume the advertising campaign includes writing one, n'est pas?) I want to hear what the new game is like when played, seeing as how I can't physically play it for myself.

      Actually, this whole debacle reminds me of South Park episode where Cartman advertised his theme park with "you can't come" motto.

      1. David Webb

        Re: Broken

        I can do a quick review of SC5 for you. The AI is stupid, the path finding is stupid, the online DRM is stupid, the city sizes are stupidly small, the water/electric/sewer system using roads is a stupid idea. With SC4 you could spend days working on one city, with SC5 you'll spend a few hours, run out of space and have to start another city, assuming of course that the internet isn't slow as if it is it takes stupid time to load up an empty zone.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Broken

        "seeing as how I can't physically play it for myself" - When did you last try to sign in? I've had no problems logging into the new one since the weekend...

        Yes, there were issues at the start, but they seem to a lot better now, I happily spent a couple of hours on it last night, and another 30 minutes this morning.

        1. pixl97

          Re: Broken

          >Yes, there were issues at the start, but they seem to a lot better now, I happily spent a couple of hours on it last night, and another 30 minutes this morning.

          A lot better? I don't own the game since I do not buy from the devil (EA), but watching the Sims Channel on I see a lot of 15-20 minute wait times for a server spot. And also unsurprising is the number of "We're having errors loading this region' after that. The whole thing is a slap in the face of the fans of the series.

  2. Goldmember

    This is only one of two games...

    ...over 5 years old that I continue to install every time I rebuild or upgrade my PC. The other being Roller Coaster Tycoon 2.

    Fond memories of this one. I didn't get it on release, but a year or so after. No lags, no trouble, it worked prefectly (with subways) and still gets played regularly. I do have the new one, but have only mnanaged to play it for around 4 hours so far. There is definitely some magic missing that was present in SC4. No God mode, only one entrance to the city as opposed to 1-2 cities on each side of the one you're playing, only 1 size of city to play with. It's fun, but I don't think I'll be uninstalling SC4 just yet.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: This is only one of two games...

      out of interest because I want to understand why we disagree, did you play any of the originals like Sim City 2000?

    2. DrXym

      Re: This is only one of two games...

      Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 was great but it had a really annoying copy protection scheme which used to think it was running under the ICE debugger on later versions of Windows. The game itself was really good. One of the best features was the boredom alleviating ways it offered to brutally kill visitors from dropping them in the lake, to sending them hurtling off half completed roller coasters.

      Transport Tycoon was another excellent game with its own fun exploits which were half the fun of the game - hemming in competitors, or destroying their trains or trucks.

      1. Piro Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: This is only one of two games...

        Just buy RCT2 Triple Thrill Pack from

        If you want it windowed, google for the windowed mode hack. Works well.

        RCT+2 are fantastic games, and I can still spend hours and hours on them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is only one of two games...

      I still prefer Sim City 2000. Bigger maps, somehow just a nicer feel to it - and not so complex that you have to devote your life to playing it. Same reason I still play Champ Manager 97-98!!

      Does anyone else think the UI in SC3 and 4 was really ugly and a bit difficult to use (not the city itself, just the buttons, graphs etc)? That put me off a lot I think.

  3. stucs201

    Can anyone explain the railways to me?

    I never could get the inhabitants to use them, even when no alternative existed. Never understood how I should lay them out in order to work.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: Can anyone explain the railways to me?

      Except for the original SimCity, you had to put railway stations for people to use 'em. And even then, the 3 tile max distance rule applied as well. Basically, make the railways link Residential, Commercial and Industrial areas and the railways would get usage.

  4. Matt 58


    My problems with crashing went away when i found out it would not run on 2 cores, switched it to only run on one core and its never crashed since.

    Also my version had subways. i think it always had subways, there was / is an underground view showing water pipes and subways.

    having played the new version i think version 4 stands up well to version 5 in terms of playability and stability, last night i got a "your city is not processing properly" message which seems to be sim code for its all gone tits up, lets reload from an old save, see if that helps. instead of data in the data boxes there were lines of code.

    I do like the "bus stops for schools" rather than the radius thing for everything in version 4, and the mining and stuff is quite fun. the cities in 5 are too small, and i don't want to be online playing a single player game. (yes global market and all that but the price seems to never change.)

    I won't be un installing version 4 though.... probably keep that forever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crashing

      I didn't have two cores. Would have been a single core 1.8GHz box with XP at that time which ran things like the first 3D GTA game superbly.

      The description of zooming in and the entire lot crashing that someone else posted rings a few bells though.

      As for subways, my memory says that something about them was broken. Perhaps it was just the fact nobody would use then rather that they were lacking? It was 10 years ago!

      1. Matt 58

        Re: Crashing

        Yep, no one used the subways or trains for that matter. i remember it crashing on the single core when zooming, but not as much as the core 2 until i tweaked it.

        Subway stations at every intersection, still lots of traffic. 10 to 20 people using the subway. virtual sim slap. a lot of shouting at the screen seemed to help.

        In the new version there should be the option of "cash for land" and expand the city by paying to get some more m2 (like RCT 2) or expand on culture / some other metric (like Civ 5) 5k people gets to a few more metres towards the sea... that would work well i think.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Crashing

          In the new version there should be the option of "cash for land"

          I think that the option of being able to get onto the servers to play it ought to be added first.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My introduction

    I got the deluxe version of sims4 recently as my first introduction. Very nice graphics and very clever/engaging but wow has it got problems. Random crashes which either kick me to my desktop (losing all that I did) or just destroying the graphics at whatever zoom level I was at (the other zoom levels are unaffected though).

    If the game was stable it would be awesome but on my windows 7 system it seems more of a chore to keep restarting the game to find much lost progress. I have only had fire disasters and probably havnt played long enough for anything interesting to happen.

    However after hearing the new one is much smaller and requires always online connection I dont think I will bother. That is before I read the complaints list of playing it online!

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: My introduction

      Now you put me off, I wanted to buy a copy as an old SC2000 fan who doesn't want the SC2000 ugliness on a modern PC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My introduction

        I dont mean to put you off and I only commented in hope that someone knew of a fix. The game is good with a couple of bugs but nothing game stopping. And while it is running it is pretty and enjoyable. Its just the crashes which upset me. I did only pay a fiver for it though so I dont feel too bad. That was in game if your wondering

        1. Not That Andrew

          Re: My introduction

          SC4 doesn't like multi-core CPU's and it's Direct3D mode can be glitchy with modern cpu's I would suggest running it in software mode and setting cpu affinity.

          Try using something like these launch options:

          -f -introff -CustomResolution:enabled -r1680x1050x32 -CPUCount:1 -d:Software

          What that means

          -f - fullscreen

          -introoff - turns off intro

          -CustomResolution:enabled - allows widecreen ratios, only works properly with -f, windowed mode will always be 4:3

          -r1680x1050x32 -the resolution, use your screen resolution here obviously

          -CPUCount:1 - tells it you have a multicore/ multiprocessor system. You can use your number of cores here, it appears just setting this makes the game behave properly.

          -d:Software - use the software renderer instead of direct3d (there is also an opengl renderer but it's buggy, apparently).

          You can change the renderer ingame, but not the other options.

          1. Not That Andrew

            Re: launch parameters

            Oops, that should be -intro:off , but luckily that's parameter's just optional.

  6. Matt Bucknall

    Flying Saucer...

    ..or the new HQ for a certain computer company?

  7. Crisp

    Simcity 4

    I've just gone back to playing this after the Simcity 5 debacle.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Too complex

    Aftert SC2000 and SimCity3, I found SimCity 4 too complex, even with the tutorials.

  9. NomNomNom

    "There’s a prevalent feeling throughout the whole of SimCity 4 that this is the game that Will Wright and Maxis would have liked to have made from day one. That is if graphics technology and PC hardware had been up to the task when the original SimCity was in development."

    The PC hardware was not up to it. If it had been the maps would have been bigger. Same with the new Sim City. They've sacrificed map size for graphics/simulation again. Can hardly build a medium sized town on the largest map, let alone a city.

    They've totally gone in the wrong direction since Sim City 2000. Maps should have got bigger, not smaller. That should have been a priority, rather than fluff like:

    "Maxis even linked SimCity 4 in with the hugely popular The Sims – ‘My Sim’ mode, as it was known, letting you transplant your own sims (or random ones if you run out) into your city’s homes and properties"

    But it's not just Sim City. Sim City 4 was typical of the age of games bringing out substandard versions in 3D glitter for the sake of "Graphics". RTS games also suffered through the "lets do it in 3D" era.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      To to agree with you about 3D. I remember loving the first couple of versions of Civilization. Then they went 3D, and everything got that much less clear and easy to see or move around with the cursor keys. I personally didn't think the prettiness made up for the ease of viewing,and would have preferred much less graphics and the more 'board game' look of the original.

      1. TakeTheSkyRoad

        In Civ 5 there's a Strategic View which gives you the map in old-school hex format.

        I tend to use the 3D view most of the time but switch to Strategic when there's serious battles going on and I want to see exactly what's going on. It also makes the game playable on lower spec machines too like my W500 tablet PC :)

      2. Vimes

        Personally I wish they'd make the original SimCity available on ios/android. I think that the top down view is more usable in some respects (no need to rotate!) especially on smaller handheld screens, and items would probably be easier to select. Not to mention that the relative simplicity of the game compared to later editions would make it easier to pick up and play for short periods of time.

        I actually spent quite some time playing the palmpilot version of this when it was around a number of years ago now. Unfortunately it's not available for more up-to-date devices...

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Personally I wish they'd make the original SimCity available on ios/android

          There are official SC iOS apps, I think based around SC3000 but worth a look. Just google simcity iphone or similar.

          Review here:

      3. Steven Roper
        Thumb Up

        @I ain't Spartacus: to agree with you about 3D. I remember loving the first couple of versions of Civilization.

        Likewise here, where RTS games are concerned. A couple of friends of mine and I have been playing Age of Empires II: Conquerors ever since it first came out, about 13 years now. Every Wednesday night, almost without fail, is our Age of Empires II LAN session. I don't think there's any other game in my life that I've played for so many years. It just has all the right elements, in all the right places.

        We've tried others: Empire Earth, Rise of Nations, The Settlers IV, Age of Mythology, even Age of Empires III. None of them last; none quite have what Age of Empires II has. It's simple, it's fast, and it's fun.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "was typical of the age of games bringing out substandard versions in 3D glitter for the sake of "Graphics""

      What do you mean exactly when you say "was"?

    3. Crisp

      Re:RTS games also suffered through the "lets do it in 3D" era.

      Did you see what they did to Simon the Sorcerer 3? They took a great 2D adventure and turned it into a blocky 3D nightmare. For no other reason than the studio wouldn't support the game unless it was in 3D.

  10. Cormu

    Superb game

    Wow the hours i spent playing this :) definatlly the best one of the lot (deluxe edition) in my opinion, and like previous poster said after this simcity 2013 DRM disaster and the crazy price they are asking for it I have gone back to playing this.

    I also have to add that after cancelling my order for simcity5 i decided to put the 20€ of the 80 i saved to Cities XL Platinum which i have to say i am enjoying alot also.

  11. DuncanL

    Where the "report errors" link gone

    "From then on you could stalk them at your leisure, watching them work, rest, play and even die – there heirs assuming the deeds to the house in an ever growing family tree of descendants."

    That should be:

    "their heirs"




    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: Where the "report errors" link gone

      Ahem, I think you mean, "Where has the 'report errors' link gone?".

    2. Trixr

      Re: Where the "report errors" link gone

      There's something about "have the reigns" in there as well (can't be bothered finding the actual sentence).

      It's REINS, in that context. REIGNS is what the queen does, and it's a VERB, not a noun that you can "have" or "hold".

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Think I must have played SimCity3 but remember the choice of "natural" disasters. Paid homage to this in a recent meeting of a Scout Troop I lead .... we were doing an activity based around the way ShelterBox provide rapid response to disaster areas and needed to consider that we'd just been hit by a natural disaster - so I gave them a choice of "tornado, volcano, aliens or Godzilla"

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Disasters

      So which did they choose? I hope it was Godzilla.

  13. Longrod_von_Hugendong


    how much are you being paid to promote sim-shity? lots by the amount of articles...

    wouldnt be so bad if they were any good to play.

    1. ShadowedOne

      Re: so...

      Obvious troll is obvious..

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: so...

        Yeah... it's not like these old game articles are blatant adverts... they note problems as well as successes.

        Personally I've really enjoyed the series.

        <=== EA you owe me one

  14. TheWeenie
    Thumb Up

    I miss this!

    I used to love this game. For some reason it doesn't seem to play nicely with my install of Win7-64 though.

    This is one of those games series that's been part of my life for years - I had the original on an Atari ST when I was about ten and nearly 25 years later, it's still something I pick up when I find I've got an hour to myself. The other one which springs to mind is Civilization - I've lost years of my life to that!

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: I miss this!

      For some reason it doesn't seem to play nicely with my install of Win7-64 though.

      Build yourself an old Win98 or XP gaming box just for these old games. You can get the parts dirt cheap from computer recyclers or just look on ebay for old boxen if you don't want to build it yourself. Then stick it under your desk with a KVM switch and all your modern-machine incompatibility woes are gone!

      1. Trixr

        Re: I miss this!

        ...or use the "WinXP mode" virtual machine to run them on your Win 7 device, if the XP compatibility mode doesn't work

        Seriously, if your machine has enough horsepower to run Win 7 plus modern games, why on earth go through the hassle of building a physical box for playing retro games? Unless you need some 3D acceleration, of course. And then VMWare or VirtualBox will give you 3D acceleration through Direct 3D.

  15. ukgnome

    The only thing I want to see is....

    A UK mode, where traffic drives on the correct side and the population are more tolerant.

    1. pPPPP

      Re: The only thing I want to see is....

      Traffic does drive on the left in the UK on Sim City 4. It looks at your language settings and if they're set to UK, the traffic drives on the left.

  16. Vimes

    Back to the train wreck that is the new SimCity for a moment:

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send Corrections link is still here

    And working just fine!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Send Corrections link is still here

      I dunno Drew, airing out your reporters' mistakes in the forum seems like so much more fun :) After all, pointing out mistakes doesn't draw a large salary for the average El Reg pundit, they gots to get their due somehow!

  18. AceRimmer


    Simcity 4 was massively extensible and there are addons for everything, some of them huge in scope.

    The Network Addon Mod improves the sims route finding

    And the are others which DOUBLE the number of buildings available and the growth levels

    "Ploppable" buildings are also available in abundance

  19. NomNomNom

    its like the opposite of free to play. its not free and you can't play.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative to EA


    Whether anything comes of this one, or if it remains just a rant against EA (and many other publishers for that matter) is the question. Would be nice if it worked out.

    1. Not That Andrew

      Re: Alternative to EA

      They've cancelled the Kickstarter. Apparently they secured funding from a publisher. I'm a bit pissed off about the situation so I won't say more.

  21. Not That Andrew

    I love 4, but the region view feels incomplete to me, You should be able to roughly terraform a whole region at once, not just city by city. City terraforming should be for tweaking and perfecting the landscape. There are 3rd party tools that allow you to terraform a whole region, but EA/Maxis should have included the ability in the game.

    It always annoys me that either you either have to spend hours making sure the terraforming matches, or have cities with rivers and hills that don't line up or just boring featureless plains.

  22. JDX Gold badge

    New disaster type in SC5

    "Cloud outage"

  23. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


    Greens and reds allowing you to instantly assess where the placement of a park or school might have the greatest effect. Of course similar systems were in place before SimCity 4, but here they just seemed that bit more relevant, and the information offered not only deeper but also easily more read and understood.

    Unless you're red-green colorblind, as a significant portion of the computer-game-playing population is.

    Red/green color cues - the sign of amateur visual design.

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