World War 3

First Thoughts

So, the release was horrible. I couldn’t connect for a full day. A few small patches later and I was able to connect to servers on the other side of the planet.

Aside from sliding around a bit because of the ping, the game is fantastic. It feels a little clunky after playing other AAA shooters. Some of the movements are stiff and it seems like a handful of the animations are broken with clipping issues.

Sound

There are some sound issues. My own footsteps were so loud, I kept getting the feeling that someone else was there with me. Distant echoes or shouts sound as if they are within a few feet. Weapon noises seemed to sync well with whatever action you are taking. They give the illusion of weight.

Weapons

The gunplay feels smooth. The weapons feel heavy in your hands. They feel like they’d do damage. Every bullet has weight. Reloading is smooth for the weapons I used. Stopping and lining up a shot is quick. Target acquisition is familiar but will take a little getting used to.

Movement & Level Design

Levels are designed well with A LOT of cover. Buildings and corridors are open allowing for secretive movements from point to point. If you prefer a frontal attack, the streets are littered with debris and concrete blocks. Unlike the level design in a game like Battlefield 4, exiting a building isn’t always a hazardous process. The accessibility of the open buildings allows for dynamic infantry play.

Movement is fluid for the most part. I mentioned a little bit about the movement animations earlier. Some of the vaulting feels broken. Occasionally, while prone, the ground would drop out from beneath me but moving a few feet would fix the issue. This really does feel like it could be a successor to the pre-frostbite Battlefield games.

I was unable to drive a tank or troop transport but when I encountered them, they seemed very strong. I viewed various streams with tanks being driven and am eager to experience that aspect of the game. I will update this review when I am able to do so.

Team Play

It seems like this could be a tactical game. I wouldn’t call it a Military Sim but sits in that sweet spot that Battlefield 2/2142 filled. The team abilities and gear are easy to use. Healing, ammo and various other standard gear filled out the kits. Drones seemed cool.

Points are gained while playing that unlock recon drones artillery strikes and various other advantages. This system seems like it effectively replaces the commander role that I’m sure many players would like to see in games like this. It seems like I might be in the minority on this one but I did like the commander.

Kadena

The Setup

I am using over sixty mods. If you are using the PC version, it’s important to get to know some mods. Namely Move It!, Traffic Manager: President Edition, and Precision Engineering. Alone, those three add an incredible amount of depth to the game.

Hardware

  • AMD Ryzen 7 1700
  • 16GB RAM
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 1070
  • WD 500GB SSD

The Plan

I started this city intending to create a lush tourist destination. I wanted to pull in thousands of tourists per month. Way more than I had ever done before. An island map should be nice. I usually build in more temperate locales. It’s nice to see palm trees. My map choice has a large island and several smaller islands off the coast of what appears to be either an island or something larger.

I am thinking futuristic. A lot of round shapes and definitely a monorail. I’ll focus on the public transport early on. It’s easy to do when money is infinite.

Tourists

How will I get those sweet, sweet tourist dollars to my city? Well, it is an oceanic/tropical themed map. There are a few natural bays around the main island. The only problem is, whoever designed this map placed the water spawns in a way that makes a huge, fast river come pouring in from the edge of the map. I will have to readjust the water levels and move the location of water source.

Using the Transport Line Manager mod, the shipping lanes will need to be adjusted. Split into three or four lines, each will stop at evenly spaced harbors near an area with hotels and shops. This area will expand along the shoreline.

Parks

I am going to play with the last expansion’s park tool. I want a large beach on the ocean side of the main island. Next to the beach is the mountain. This will be a nature reserve with hiking paths connecting to the main part of the city on the other side.

Energy

Kadena will be powered by wind to start and then as time goes on, that will change to solar. The city’s energy needs will continue to be supplemented by wind. I can already see a few fertile spots that will boost the solar energy output.

The Layout

To start, a large circular highway that will eventually serve central high density districts. I imagined a zoo or some type of larger park within the ring. It’s unconventional. I’m pretty sure it will need some work down the road. Maybe when the population level reaches twenty thousand and then every twenty thousand will be the standard for inspection. I’ll come back to this later.

The actual street network will wrap around the two rings to form arcs. The main streets conform to this shape. Avenues form spokes routing traffic from suburb districts as well as connecting a couple island communities surrounding the main island. The ring shape will taper off into some grid networks but will mostly stay organic.

I decide to copy the ring and plop it down on the opposite side of the main island. This forms two great arcs. Two great modern city centers. Transport hubs will bring tourists by land and will connect to the large monorail network that circles the main island. At some point, a subway will connect certain areas to the main arcs. Perhaps the time will come to build an airport, necessitating a subway expansion.

Cities Skylines: All Roads Lead to Rome

In this series, I will be discussing Cities: Skylines. This discussion will be heavily influenced by Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jacobs blames the automobile-centric planning of  the 1950’s for the decline of many American cities.

Being a fan of city sim games, you probably already know that Cities: Skylines truly is the successor to SimCity 4. CS is extremely accessible to new users but hides challenges of complexity within the pretty colors and details. Laying the foundations of trade and industry is incredibly important in a world that is interlinked by train and boat.

Sure, you can load up a new city and start laying down roads without thinking very much. It takes a bit more planning and insight to avoid gridlock. I’ve seen a lot of focus on making cities appear a certain way ie: avoiding grids. Proper planning, in not only layout, but also zoning helps to alleviate some of the grid stress. And, if you’ve played the game, you should know that using roundabouts in key areas can help. They can also cause traffic within an unplanned system. Using a short tunnel or an elevated roadway to avoid an intersection altogether while still providing an alternate higher capacity route allows for unimpeded point A to point B travel for cims.

I think of traffic as water and the roads as pipes. Allowing for proper throughput using appropriately placed traffic lights as well as roundabouts while utilizing one way streets can ensure flowing traffic in the most densely populated areas in a city. It’s essentially a system of gates and locks. It is also most efficient when bottlenecks are avoided and multiple outlets are created.

“Traffic congestion is caused by vehicles, not by people in themselves.”

I recently read that a city is only as great as its sidewalks. Approaching C:S with this perspective, I created fantastic bike paths and pedestrian thoroughfares where, in the past, I would have placed a highway. The result? High capacity sidewalk networks spanning the length of a city. Thousands of bicycles coming and going, stealing cars from the roads and opening up the most dense areas to breathe. Focusing on more realistic zoning patterns along with the building of vast sidewalk networks gives goods and services open lanes allowing dense commercial centers to climb higher and appear more realistic.

“You can’t rely on bringing people downtown, you have to put them there.”

Semi-closed systems and mixed zoning are great ways to avoid gridlock. Mini commercial/business centers at the heart of large residential areas keep neighborhoods local. Modern American cities in particular have suffered from their automobile centered design. In reality, some municipalities have begun deconstructing highway systems in favor of pedestrian friendly strips of parks or mixed use zoned neighborhoods where rivers of automobiles once ruled.

Recently, criticisms of I-70 lane expansions in Denver have further opened up the debate. One side sees the highway as a barrier, balkanizing neighborhoods and socio-economic status (the other side of the tracks). The other side seems to be a bit more pragmatic in its approach and sees the expansions as a way of alleviating traffic along major corridors.

My perspective is that the more highways or highway lanes you provide, the more people will use them. Creating more traffic, and adding to the problem. Designing cities for more local commutes makes them more sustainable in real life. In Cities: Skylines, time spent planning will repay in bunches. To say the least, it’s a much more complex issue in real-life but, in C:S tunnels/bridges or simply public transportation can be the answer. Express routes to jobs centers are especially useful.

“…the destructive effect of automobiles are much less a cause than a symptom of our incompetence at city building.”

Designing these systems with a point A to point B transport in mind can save headaches as your city develops. Using mass transit stations as hubs in central/high density areas of a city with transfer points branching out to where the jobs actually are is one fairly obvious strategy. Bus stops every other block for one route and express routes to far off destinations with park and ride style highway on/off ramps along the way. Each stop in close proximity to dense commercial districts. Basically, we’re talking about traditional regional and local routes.

It’s actually pretty simple in Cities:Skylines. Train stations and metro/subway stations can be surrounded by commercial zones and other attractions. Providing buses with transfer stops at the stations will help. So, try this strategy for more realistic cityscapes. You will see vast acres of low density residential zones dotted by high density, multi-story buildings.

More to come…

-Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities