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A Basic Beginners Guide SC4 #1147
Updated: 6/2/03 OS/platforms(s): All Versions: All

Contributor/author(s): Bobthefunkyfish

The first thing one may notice when playing Sim City 4 is that the budget is extremely different from that of previous versions. To be brief, this new change consists of having to pay for more things more often, and the addition of a local funding meter on various city service buildings.

For instance, in Sim City 3000, you did not have to pay a monthly charge on power plants and water pumps. This apparent new maintenance charge was accounted for in your overall Utilities budget, which, consequently, was lower than it ever will be in Sim City 4. Whereas in SC3K come 2050 one with money could plop efficient fusion plants and forget about them and their electricity worries, in SC4 a fusion plant demands a hefty 10K a month fee, and is rewarded only to those cities technologically adept and in need of massive power. Annoying? Slightly. Then again, modern scientists haven't perfected the power of hydrogen fusion anyways.

When starting a city, it is important, in fact vital, that if the city is not connected to another large and prospering city with its own developed RCI demands, you should zone low density. If your city is connected (transportation wise), it will feel the demand for houses, whatever, from that neighboring city. So if its houses they want, zone them some projects on the double. If the city is a new one, however, low density is cheap and easy. Its low cost allows you to plan out your grid and infrastructure for everything (buses, parks, civil services, rewards, your statue, etc.) It's like laying out everything but zones when your city starts, but then putting in cheap-o zones while you're at it. You can always zone high later.

But be careful! When re-zoning residential and commercial, keep in mind that the amount of Sim's per zoned space increases. Therefore, that school that covered those nice grids of low density houses may not be enough to cover those redeveloped and rezoned grids of apartment complexes. This is an extreme problem in SC4. Do not let a strike happen or the time lost in increasing funding and placing more schools (or clinics, etc.) will be devastating to the desiribality. As always watch your funds and available space. Luckily this only applies to boring civil cervices, like health and education (jk about boring). Police, fire and parks are just as effectual in high density area. You'll face more crime and more stations would solve the problem, but the benefit does not outweight the cost of overlapping stations, except in extreme situations, like getting those ultra-modern towers of crime-less joy.

Now that you've zone low density, prepare to expand. Place service buildings when they're begged, and I mean begged for. Be sure you get the most bang for you buck too. You can always place a police station early in the game and lower its funding so that it only covers zoned parts of the city, but then you risk forgetting about it. Instead, first zone an area the size of a police station's radius, then let it develop, then when the time (and $) is right, place the station. You have to cover all that area anyways. Don't burden yourself with even the slightest monthly costs early on with diminished local budgets--live with the complaints. Place buildings only when you can handle the intial cost and the FULL NORMAL monthly fee. The game's budget tool allows you to check this easily. It's a lot easier on your wallet and your infrastructure if you wait and place buildings when you can afford thier full costs. It saves time and effort later when you rezone high densities. And remember, a new city doesn't need or afford a college! Come on people. Avoid colleges, museums, and high schools until your city is large and obviously has high populations of teenagers and artists. These should be placed when begged for, and once you've rezoned, preferably.

Keep zoning low density until a substantial amount of your initial available space is used up (1/2 the map max). You must be patient and prudent. If you keep your budget earning money, you'll find out how quickly you get money. A mere 1,000 month surplus turns into 12,000 simoleons in a year, which flys by in about 1.5 minutes. All those old strategies of taking out massive loans and laying out high density grids across your SC3K map don't cut it here. The monthly fees on loans and the services you'll need to attract people to all the zoned space will sink you before you accrue enough tax benefit.

Beware, oh beware of the bulldozer in SC4. Whereas in SC3K, where bulldozing one tile merely cost 5 simoleons, and you could bulldoze your city from corner to corner for about $50,000, bulldozing even one building in SC4 is a budget pincher because, as in real life, you must buy it before you bulldoze. So be prepared to pay the millions it'll cost to buy that skyscraper to bulldoze. If only you could buy the building but not bulldoze it... Know that parks and service buildings are usually exempt, as they are the city's already. So no problem trashing that old power plant. You paid for it originally anyways (nothing is free :/)

With that said, beware business deals. They bring nice $, but lower your mayor rating. 'Nuff said. If you must place them, they are NIMBYs, and do not place the toxic waste dump. No one, not even dirty industry, likes it. Its torrid. Remember that not only are business deals NIMBYs but there mayor rating effects are citywide. No tucking these in your poop-landfill-and-power plant-map-corner-islands. You can't bulldoze business deals once you decide you don't want them anymore, unless you want to buy them first :-) A good trick for the decent deals (casino) is to place them right on the edge of the map. If you decide you dont want them, go into the bordering city and make a road connection right through the business deal. Neither city will pay for demolition. Splendid!

Now that we've mentioned poop corners, know that pollution that crosses borders is not seen in neighboring regional cities views. I.E. the 3/4 of pollution that goes over the border when you place your power plant in a map corner disappears off the face of the region. Enjoy!

Land value means little in this game. Desirability is the now the name of the game. Any zoned tile will build, provided there's demand and its desiribable. If you're rich Sims are plentiful, need office buildings to work in, and you have desirable areas, by golly here come the office buildings (zone high, dummies) Making an area desirable is easy. Low pollution, plenty of necessary services (all for residential, police and fire for C &I) and good transportation to and from the other zones. The desirability view of the graphs tool is very very handy for seeing where to zone. Use as necessary. This paragraph is all good knews, as you don't have to surround you're high density commercial centers with 2 million "fountains" and trees and marinas and zoos and "large parks" anymore.

If you dare zone your city residential, which you must, be prepared for the wonder of mayor rating. This is simple--its what your people think of you and your city. Keep in mind it applies only to residential cities. Cities of industrial might have no citizens that might have opinions of you. So build those surplus increasing army bases? Who's going to care. That said, know that you're mayor rating will never rise (or fall) if you have no residential sims. The second you have any (and I mean any) sims living in your city, you have a rating.

So the things:

If you want to get a super high mayor rating in your mainly commercial cities, zone a small patch of residential and give it all the comforts it needs. Place a school and a hospital/clinic, which are only needed in residential cities (! read that again gents !). Everyone in that nice plot will be happy, comfortable, and represent the entire mood of the city. Now you have about 2,000 people thinking you're great. Its a lot easier to maintain greatness among 2,000 people than among 2 million. Now you have a high mayor rating to get those benefitial rewards you might not otherwise get (i.e. arghh stock exchange, need you in big commercial city but have no mayor rating!!!) Of course lacking in general population will get you lacking in rewards (18000 for that radio station...). Its best to mix residential cities with commercial. they benefit from the proximity anyways.

MR = E

Oh no, algebra.

Actually, this is a reflexive propert of mayor rating. It equals expense. The more money you spend, the higher it goes. Here's what will get your mayor rating up or down:

Remember that mayor rating applies only to residents. You can place that power plant next to commerce. Feel the unaesthetic pain of massive diners and Walgreens, but your Sims that live away from the plant will still love you.

Also remember that mayor rating varies by area. Some may love you on the west side, but those by the power plant on the north may feel ornery... Down:

  • Proximity of R zones to the usual NIMBYs
  • Placement of any business deals anywhere (including casino)
  • Lack of services (all of them, we're talking residential here--don't skimp on parks)
  • Poor transportation and traffic
  • Pollution
  • Lack of parks
  • Advanced research center (this is minor; build it anyways if you wish)
  • Country Club (applicable only to poor Sims)
  • Nuclear Power Plants anywhere
  • Good services coverage (all of them, parks too)
  • Lack of NIMBYs
  • No business deals
  • Low pollution
  • Most rewards
  • All landmarks
  • Good transportation (mass transit and roads)
  • Short commutes

Keep in mind that residential desirablity goes hand in hand with mayor rating, and that services coverage is the most important of the "good" factors.

Follow your advisor's advice, unless it differs from mine. Place any and all free rewards immediately, unless they're bad.

Always, always add up on a calculator your new monthly budget you'll have once you place that museum befor you place it. You want a surplus-don't get caught earning a few hundred a month.

Don't let your terraforming own you. If that hills in the way, you lose. Theres nothing you can do. If only you were God once more...or you can play smart and keep your cities flat as can be...You decide.

If you do show a monthly loss, raise taxes. If you've followed my advice, cutting spending will be detrimental. Avoid this at all times. You can comfortable raise taxes in a fledgeling region between 6-8. Anything lower will result in paranormal demand, higher and a drop in demand (duh). This 6-8 range decreases once your region is up and running and business and Sims have more cities and options on where to live to avoid taxes (luckily, there are no offshore banks) A slight decimal difference may make the difference later on when you border 10 cities.

Play smart, play slow, zone low. Then move up. Play smarter, play slower (then faster, once you've acquired Utopia--a Dickensian utopia? you decide), zone higher. Don't goof up, and be prepared to relearn the ropes. I still am. Enjoy those 10,000 a month fusion plants (mumble grumble complain...)

See also
When to build city services.
Early tips
SC4: Getting Started.
Neighbor Connections

Knowledge Tree

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