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Sim City 4: It's Not A Game, It's A Hobby

Updated on January 20, 2015

Sim City 4, a game released back in 2003, still has a cult following today that continues to take the game to new heights.

See how Sim City 4 has moved beyond a casual "sim game" to a stunning simulator capable of creating amazing scenery and jaw dropping realism!

About Sim City 4

When a community revolutionizes a game

Sim City 4 took the concept of Sim City 3000, and added more features and a less "cartoonish" look, making it an attractive 2.5-dimensional take on the Sim City franchise. With the ability to add community content, the Sim City 4 fan base went to work, creating buildings, parks, landmarks and other realistic, commonplace structures seen in every day life that weren't included off-the-shelf.

As a result of several years of content, Sim City 4 has become somewhat of a digital canvas for in-motion graphics: a platform to create superb eye candy by imitating life in pixel form. This guide will not only show you how Sim City 4 has evolved thanks to community created content, but will point you in the right direction toward adding resources to your own game!

Everything you see on this page are actual in-game screenshots from Sim City 4. Nothing has been enhanced with Photoshop! This game proves to be a 2D world creator that is only limited by your imagination.

Enter the Wild: Peace and Quiet in Sim City 4

Natural habitats with jaw-dropping realism

It's not uncommon to have seen many Sim City 4 pros spend great deals of time detailing their wilderness regions...or even create nothing but areas free from human civilization, despite a far-stretching national highway (Sims have to find some way to visit the mountains, after all). From the crumbled, dusty red facade of the Arizona desert, to the crisp pine-scented plains of the Rockies and the breeze-swept beaches of the Bahamas: Sim City 4 builders have landscaped some of the most awe-inspiring images with a steady hand and the help of many incredible flora and landscape texture modifications:

Various after-market rock & dirt textures as well as custom trees turn the "off-road" section of your Sim City 4 city into a stunning landscape

Thanks to a community-made water mod, water's opacity can be tweaked to reveal underwater plant life

This snow scene looks that much more stunning with the community-made shadow modification, exaggerating shadows and giving the illusion of sunrise

That's one long drop! Although objects can't be placed under bridges in Sim City 4, you'd never know it by looking at this scene.

Special textures can turn an entire Sim City 4 world into a desert scene reminiscent of the American southwest (get that Mesa terra-forming tool handy!)

Rolling Hills of the Sim City 4 Countryside

Dirt roads, tractors and wooden log fences

Agriculture played a prominent part in Sim City 4, which became an aesthetically pleasing part of many players' countrysides. Complete with both dry and fruitful fields, barnyards, dirt roads and the occasional corner store, Sim City 4 farmlands have a quaint and simple charm all of their own - regardless if the trees have turned a myriad of reds, purples and yellows in the fall, or if the lush greens of the Spring contrast with golden fields of wheat. Spot the occasional llama farm, pumpkin field, or even the old Sheriff's patrol car turning down the dirt road:

Make your rural areas more realistic with tons of different community-made farm packs, dirt roads and agricultural themed items

Downloadable water towers, creeks and trees from different areas of the world are all available for your Sim City 4 installation

A Train Hobbyist's Dream

Railyards, locomotives, far-stretching track and endless possibilities

Don't forget to tend to both your passenger and freight rail in Sim City 4 separately, as they both play a huge part in the delivery of workers and goods. Make it more fun (and realistic) by routing out your rail lines as they move from region to region. Lay track from the furthest reaches of the countryside to the heart of the city; toward the docks where cargo ships are ready to send off your region's products. Build rail bridges across the steepest ravines, or send them underground if demolitions through a populated area aren't in the city plans. Regardless, it's perfectly sane to watch trains take their routes through your forests, mountains, countrysides and cities to fulfill their goals:

Be assured, scenery like this takes a very long time to hand-place in Sim City 4, but the results are worth it! This heavily modified railyard couldn't look more lifelike.

A freight train travels through a peaceful Sim City 4 countryside.

Towns and Boros: Beyond the City

Mimicking the flow of habitable regions

To any true Sim City 4 artist, it's not about the game, and it's certainly not about building a massive Lego-block city. It's about one key word: realism! As in the real world, not an entire landscape is city alone, but towns, suburbs, state-owned land and undeveloped areas. True masters of Sim City 4 design know the balance between overcrowding structures and haphazard roads, and the natural "flow" of a city's epicenter to its furthest suburbs, and beyond:

Inspired by Arlington National Cemetary? Many Sim City 4 hobbyists take realism to new heights, with wide open areas dedicated to real life areas, including cemeteries

Brand-name supermarkets, stores and fast food joints by the droves can be found as downloadables for Sim City 4. Make your strip malls (or mega malls) more realistic!

Thanks to new one-way roads in Sim City 4, town layouts can be fine-tuned to direct traffic. Also, notice the parked car mod.

The Sim City 4 community has even created various road types, such as this red brick cobble road for your upper class area of town.

With a little patience, use regular, one-way and boulevard roads to create a realistic roundabout, and watch the traffic react to it.

Summertime in Sim City 4

Going back to the beach

Building a great beach has never been more fun, since Sim City 4. Thanks to lots of downloadable beach stuff, some amazing coastlines have been created to bring all of the memories and familiar sights from your summer vacation memories into Sim City 4:

Sea walls, boardwalks, sand, beach-goers and boats are just some of the "sea junk" you can download for your city's coastal regions.

Even Dirty Industry Can Be Inspiring

Grunge and grit at a downtown near you

No city is complete without a chemical processing and manufacturing sector, and there's no shortage of amazing looking industrial parks, structures and complementary facilities to surround your power plant, warehouse docks or freight train stops. From inactive smokestacks to fields of crushed automobiles at the downtown junkyard, tons of community-created industrial structures and landmarks have been made for the sole purpose of adding realism to your less desirable areas. Or, will you mimic the dark-red brick charm of old German architecture in your industrial areas, reminiscent of Pittsburgh, PA? Possibilities are endless:

Create your own oil refinery (just for looks), complete with grungy pipe work, storage containers and tanks. Give your highway drivers something to look at on their way to work.

This replica Domino Sugar factory made a great addition to this Sim City 4 player's industrial area.

The Big City

The bread and butter of Sim City 4

It would be uncivilized to ignore the possibilities of creating a sprawling metropolis in Sim City 4: with hundreds of professional-grade buildings created by the community, you can light up the skyline with amazing skyscrapers and corporate logos adorned by neon. Whether you're in the mood to build, or simply sit back and watch the traffic go by - building highly populated cities is an addiction of any true Sim City 4 player:

There's no shortage of gigantic skyscrapers and towers of all shapes and sizes from around the world that you can place, thanks to custom content. Just wait until you see it at night!

A baseball stadium by the railway in a New York-inspired environment get illuminated as the morning sun rises.

These stunning multi-lane highway intersections with left-turn lanes are a favorite downloadable item created by the Sim City 4 community.

Use your imagination to place buildings and sculpt roads strategically around them to create truly unique eye candy in Sim City 4.

Reach for the Sky with Realistic Airports

Puzzle together an amazing, fully-functional airport

Giving airports scale-size treatment is a must for Sim City 4 designers! Why limit your airport to a tiny rectangular piece of the city, when you can create a 3,000 mile long field of strategic asphalt runways, grass medians, blinking lights, hangars, terminals, tarmacs, sheds, helipads and everything else you've seen at your local airport! Be sure to set up a tram system to get people moving around the property, and include a series of bus stops outside of the terminal waiting areas. Look toward real life airports for inspiration, and create something truly amazing:

Airport fans will love Sim City 4's downloadable airport packs. Create massive parking lots, terminals, huge tarmacs and monumental runways (which actually work!)

It almost feels like landing in Fort Lauderdale! Use objects for different settings to make your city look more like Florida than New York...or Wisconsin.

Lots of different goodies are available, like this lettering pack, which will let you create custom signage within the game.

Shipping Off Across the Sea

Seaports extend your goods and bring in vacationers!

No heavy industrial zone is complete without a fully functional seaport to ship out and bring in cargo, to be loaded onto your freight trains. Make things safer with one of several amazing looking (and working) lighthouses...and don't forget to add some fun to your city coastline with a commercialized marina, or even a dock for your Navy servicemen to visit:

Almost everything you see here is heavily modified. There's even a community mod to create the appearance of items that are under a bridge (even though that isn't possible).

How Did They Do It?

For those who have never played Sim City 4 before

Sim City 4 enables you to create cities by dragging and releasing transit networks (road, rail, etc.), zones (industrial, residential & commercial), and place or "plop" special landmark buildings, parks, and other structures. Zones, when given ample power and water, will "grow" buildings after time has passed (these buildings are referred to as "growables"). Trees are painted onto the ground with a tree tool, and the land can be terraformed or sculpted with the help of a special god-mode menu. Unfortunately, the water tool that once was found in previous versions of Sim City has never made it into Sim City 4.

Once the foundation of a city is in place: power plant, water pumping stations, zoning, & transit - people will begin to populate the area, and cars will be seen driving to and from work, during both rush hours of the day. Sim City 4 features a unique day and night cycle, never seen in previous games.

Sim City 4, out of the box, has a moderate replay value - once you've gotten so far, you tend to lose motivation to continue as things get repetitive. Thanks to community content, you can download tens of thousands of new buildings and objects right into your game's 'downloads' folder - everything from game rule modifications to placeables and growables are available, and will completely transform your game into a highly realistic experience.

The possibilities of heavily modified Sim City 4 games have inspired so many to create masterpiece landscapes, as you've seen in the images above. They're the result of planning, inspiration from real life scenery, and knowing the right add-ons to use in the right places. Everyone has their own creation style. People who play Sim City 4 just to create amazing scenery typically use money cheat structures to eliminate the burden of budgeting, and turn off all in-game disasters so that gameplay isn't interrupted. Other cheats make the game become no challenge at all - which is precisely what a Sim City 4 landscape designer is looking for. In essence - when you look to use Sim City 4 as your own sandbox, you've outgrown the prospect of looking at it as a "game," but more as a hobby, where your creation bustles with life, while being pure eye candy.

Looking for More Sim City 4 Eye Candy? - Links to more screenshot collections

All of the beautiful work you see above was the hard work and creativity of members from the forum Simtropolis. Here are more incredible creations from their top members!

New York City in Sim City 4 - One of the biggest Sim City 4 projects of all time!

Take a look at this slideshow collection, of a massive reproduction of New York City in Sim City 4. Just look at the incredible renditions of famous NYC landmarks...all are available for download on Simtropolis, of course!

Buy Sim City 4 - Sim City 4 + Rush Hour

SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition - PC
SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition - PC

The game is all you need to get started...then, let the add-ons begin! Learn the fundamentals of Sim City 4 before you venture off into intricate country, town and city designing, where the sky is the limit!

 
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