Tutorial -- A Walk Through Your City

Starting Up

To start up SimCity, go to the SimCity directory and run the shell script named "SimCity". The computer will chug for a while as HyperLook and SimCity are loaded. You'll know things are going well when you see the Introduction Screen.

The Introduction Screen

Once SimCity is loaded, the Introduction Screen will go away and be replaced by a Welcome Notice, and a Startup Window with a bunch of buttons for cities and scenarios.

The Welcome Notice

The Startup Window

In case you wonder about any of the buttons or graphics, you can get help on anything by pointing at it and pressing the "Help" key. So try pressing "Help" over the weird little grill in the upper right corner of the Startup Window. This brings up the HyperLook Help stack. Click on "Done" to dismiss it.

The Help Stack

Generating a New City

Now click the left mouse button on the "New City" button. The Welcome Notice will turn into a control panel for setting up a New City, and the Startup Screen will turn into a Terrain Generator with a map and some buttons.

The New City Panel

The Terrain Generator

City Name

You can set the name of your city by clicking the left button on the "City Name" text field, and typing the name. The delete key erases the last character, and Control-U erases to the beginning of the line. You can double or triple click on the name to select it, and it will be deleted when you type a new name.

Game Level

The three exclusive settings let you select the Game Level. Choose "Easy" for now, by clicking the left mouse button. If you're just starting out, you can certainly use the extra money!

Generate New Terrain

If you're not satisfied with the terrain map you see, just press "Generate New Terrain", and you will get a new map. You can do this as many times as you like, until you get a nice map.

Randomly Generated Terrain Maps

Use This Map

When you are happy with the terrain map, press the "Use This Map" button, and the game will begin!

The Edit Window

You're now playing SimCity! The Edit Window, which is the main window used for controlling SimCity, will be displayed:

The Edit Window

The Edit Window is where you will do the actual building and zoning. In the middle of the Edit Window is a detailed map showing part of the terrain. Around the edges are controls and fields displaying information about the city.

Along the top edge of the window is the City Name, where the name of your city or the scenario you selected is displayed. Clicking on it brings the window to the front.

In the upper left corner is a picture of the City Simulator, from Maxis. If you click on that, the Introduction Screen will be displayed to show the credits, version, and copyrights. Click on the Introduction Screen to dismiss it.

On the left edge, below the City Simulator, is a Close Box. Clicking the left button on the Close Box closes the Edit Window into a small icon, a miniature version of the window. Thanks to the way HyperLook is designed, when a window is iconified, it continues to animate. You can double click on an icon to open it back up to a full sized window.

There is a row of Menu Buttons below the title, to the right of the Close Box. Pressing the right mouse button down over any of these buttons pops up a menu, from which you can select using the right mouse button. Clicking the left mouse button over a Menu Button selects the menu's default item, without displaying the menu. The default menu item has a black ring or rectangle around it. You can set the default by pressing the Control key when the menu is up.

There are three fields below the Menu Buttons, that display your Current Funds (in dollars), the Current Date (the year and month), and important Messages (one at a time). Clicking on them just brings the window to the front.

Along the left edge of the window are two columns of colorful Tool Icons, used for choosing the city editing mode. Click the mouse over an icon to select an editing tool. The currently selected tool is highlighted in yellow. The Tool Cost field along the bottom edge of the window tells you the name of the selected tool, and how many dollars it costs to use.

You can use the selected tool by pressing the left mouse button over the map in the middle of the Edit Window. Also, you can pop up a Pie Menu to quickly switch between editing tools, by clicking the right mouse button over the map. You can easily scroll the map by pressing the middle mouse button down over the map and dragging the view around.

The Demand Indicator shows the demand levels for Residential (green), Commercial (blue), and Industrial zones (yellow), and can be helpful in planning your city.

The Zoom Control changes the magnification of the map. You can zoom in or out to make the graphics larger or smaller, or press the Zoom Reset button to zoom back to normal. The animation is fastest at the normal size.

All of the SimCity windows have Drag Edges with which you can move the window around, and Resize Corners to change the size of the window. Some windows cannot be resized, so the resize corners just move them around. To use them, press the left mouse button down over the corner or edge, and move the outline to where you want it. The window will move or resize to that location, when you release the button.

The main portion of the map is land. Your available land is made up of three types of terrain. The brown areas are Clear Land, the green areas are forests and Trees, and the blue areas are Water. You can build only on Clear Land. You can clear forest and extend coastlines with your bulldozer. You can run roads, rails, and power lines straight across the Water.

The Map Window

The other window that's shown when you start the game is the Map Window, which displays an overview of your entire city map:

The Map Window

You can see different demographic views of the city, chosen by the icons on the left. The type of map is shown along the top edge of the window, to the right of the Close Box.

There is a yellow rectangle in the Map Window that shows the location of the detailed city view. (There may be more than one yellow rectangles, if multiple views are visible.) Press the mouse button down over the yellow rectangle, and drag it around the map, to scroll the view.

Building a City

To begin a city, we need: places for Sims to live, places for Sims to work, and power.

You can only build on Clear Land, so use the Bulldozer to clear away some trees. Click the left mouse button on the Bulldozer Icon. Move the cursor over to land. It now points to a small square, outlining the area that will be bulldozed when you click the left button. The Trees under your pointer are now Clear Land. Now, hold the left button down and drag the pointer across the Trees. Mass destruction. Clear a large area of land to prepare for building.

Click the Residential Icon, then move back to your terrain. Your cursor will now point to a large square outline. This outline indicates how much clear space you will need to create a Residential Zone -- a place for Sims to live. Clicking the left mouse button in Clear Land will "zone" that area. The "R" in the zone center indicates that it is a Residential Zone. The flashing lightning symbol means that the zone has no power. Place a few more Residential Zones next to the first one.

Several New Residential Zones

Now decide where to position a Power Plant in your city. Point to the Power Plant Icon, and press and hold the left mouse button. A menu will appear, giving you the option of choosing a Coal or Nuclear plant. For now, release the button over "Coal". The outline for a Power Plant is even larger than for a Residential Zone. Place the Power Plant in some open space near your Residential Zones. If your Power Plant is not directly adjacent to a Residential Zone, you'll need to run a Power Line from your Power Plant to the Residential Zones.

To do this, click the left mouse button over the Power Line Icon. By pointing your cursor and pressing the button, lay Power Lines from your Power Plant to your Residential Zones. Adjacent Power Line sections will automatically connect to each other. Road and Rail lines connect in the same manner.

In a moment, the flashing symbols in the Residential Zones will disappear, indicating that your zones have been powered. Any zones that are adjacent to a powered zone do not need separate Power Lines run to them. Soon you will see small houses start to appear. The Sims have started to move in!

Here Comes the Neighborhood!

Once there are a few Residential Zones, where Sims can live, you need to make it possible for your new residents to find jobs. They can't all work at the power plant!

Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Zones

Now you're ready for Commercial and Industrial areas; places for Sims to work, shop, and transact business. Select the Commercial Icon and place a few Commercial Zones near your Residential ones. Then select the Industrial Icon and place some Industrial Zones. Connect all necessary Power Lines.

Notice that as you select different Tool Icons, the icon's description and its associated cost will be displayed in the Tool Cost field near the lower left corner of the Edit Window. The Current Funds field near the top of the window displays your total funds available.

Now click the left button on the Road Icon and add Roads from your Residential housing to the Commercial and Industrial areas to allow the Sims to commute to work. Road sections connect themselves like Power Line sections. Once you have Roads, traffic will be generated.

Roads with Traffic

Now move the cursor to the Menu Button labelled "Windows", and press the right mouse button down. The Windows Menu will pop up below the cursor. Drag the cursor to the menu item labelled "Budget", and release the right button. This brings up the Budget Window, which lets you set the level of funding for your fire, police, and transportation departments.

The Budget Window

Click the left mouse button on the up and down arrows, or drag the sliders to change the funding levels. You can also adjust the current tax rate. If you have no police or fire departments, you can't fund them. You cannot fund more than 100%. Since your city is so new, you can't do much here now, but come back later. Click the left mouse button on the "Go With These Figures" button to make the window go away when you're done. If the hour glass runs out, the window will go away automatically. You can click on the hourglass to keep that from happening.

Now look at the Map Window. You can get an idea of the size of your city, and how much room you have left. Try the different map views by clicking the left mouse button on the icons along the left edge of the Map Window. You will need this information to build and adjust conditions in your city. For example, you can pinpoint the areas with the highest crime to determine locations for new police stations.

The Map Window

Additional information can be gained through the available Graphs. Unlike the Maps, which only show the current state of your city, the Graphs give you a record of the past so you can gauge trends and cycles. You can display the Graph Window by selecting the item labelled "Graph" from the Window Menu.

The Graph Window

You can toggle the various graph displays on and off, and switch between 10 year and 120 year graphs, by clicking on the icons at the left of the Graph Window.

Another way to gather information about your city is by using the Query Tool. To use this, select the Tool Icon with the magnifying glass and question mark, or hold down the "Q" key, then press the left mouse button over the map in the Edit Window. You will be shown a window filled with information about the zone under the cursor.

The Zone Status Window

Now, let's Save the city to disk. Use the File Menu to select "Save City as...". You'll see the Save File dialog. Near the top of the window is a text field labelled "File:". You can select a directory by typing its name into the text field, or by double clicking in the scrolling list. Then you can type in a name for your city, ending with the ".city" extension, and press return. Your city will be saved to disk, so you can load it later to get back to where you are now.

Save File Dialog

To load a city, use the File Menu and select the item labelled "Load City...". The Open File dialog looks and works almost like the Save File dialog. It will start out in a directory named "Cities", which contains some interesting cities included with SimCity. You can load and play any of them, or navigate to the directory where you saved your city, and load that again.

Open File Dialog

This is all the basic information you need to run SimCity, but we suggest reading on. The User Reference section explains in detail how to use each program function. Inside SimCity explains the inner workings of the simulator, and gives some brief hints and tips for using it. There is also an essay on The History of Cities and City Planning, and a Bibliography for serious City Planners.

Have Fun Playing SimCity!