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Sunday, April 5, 2015

DIRT First - Design It Right The First Time with Cities: Skylines

Welcome to the first in a series of design articles about general design concepts I'm calling Dirt First - Design It Right The First Time. Regardless of what you're designing, if you put more effort in up front and design it correctly at earlier stages, each layer of detail will be all that more meaningful. End users will appreciate simplicity, other developers will appreciate not having to redesign what you've done because of an issue left unchanged, and you'll enjoy less work if you every revisit a design.

To exemplify this design concept, I'll be using Cities: Skylines, a city-building game with a lovely traffic simulator. Part of the challenge in starting a new city in the game is designing the road system to handle higher traffic volumes later. You're limited in cash, road size, and you have no mass-transit options. At first, you can only build a two-way street, then you get one-way streets, avenues, and boulevards. You can't extend or change the highway. Here's how you design your first few roads so that, even late in the game where you'll have high populations and lots of industry, your traffic will still flow smoothly.
  1. Connect the highways together with a two-way street. This gives you a quick way to unlock the one-way streets, which is vital for the next step. (You can change the two-way to a one-way later.)
  2. Using one-way streets, create a counter-clockwise loop big enough to place avenues or boulevards on each of the three remaining cardinal directions. Right turns means almost zero wait times at intersections.
  3. Place avenues left and right, and a boulevard towards the center of your city plot. Don't go too far with two of them, you only need one long one for the residential development.
  4. Your industrial should get priority nearest the highway connection. Then a small plot of commercial to separate the industrial and residential. Then place residential along your long avenue.
  5. You'll want to try and drive your residential development towards a water source so you don't have to build too many power lines, and your pipe will service everyone from the source to the industrial.
  6. If you've done it correctly, it should look something like this!
The avenues lead to a water pump and sewage drain, and the power plant never runs out of fuel.
I've played this game a bit since the screenshot, and the city is now at 23,600 residents, and I have over $1 million in cash. I might build slower than some people, but I design it right the first time.