I Played Cities Skylines for 2500 Hours and Here’s What I Learned About City Planning

Cameron Lee Cowan
9 min readJun 9, 2022

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Cities Skylines is one the few games that has continued to maintain my attention and has continued to delight me over the past couple years. When SimCity was ended and Maxis shut down, I decided to go take a look at the other city building game that everyone was talking about. Like a refugee fleeing a war zone, I packed up my knowledge of city planning and scooted over to the Cities Skylines universe. I discovered that creating a city in City Skylines was very different but allowed for much more realistic cities than SimCity.

I’ve written about and posted videos about how we could revitalize and remake American urban environments and playing this game has taught me a great deal about city planning. This is especially true because Cities Skylines is an agent based game. The goal of the game is to make it easy for citizens and vehicles to move around the map. I’ve built around 40 cities and only just now have I begun to make cities that are really great. I’ve even started going back to older cities and trying to fix them up and make them both more functional and more beautiful. Players in this game will get fanatical about detailing their cities and they will go all out on placing things to make cities as wonderful as possible.

I’ve learned quite a few things about urban planning while playing this game. The game dynamics aren’t quite the same as the real world (why won’t traffic use all the lanes?!?!) but it is an education in how to deal with all the dynamics of a built space and how people interact in it.

Getting Around

One of the biggest problems any mayor will face in this game is getting citizens moving around easily. Cities Skylines is an agent based game. The real play is making so each agent can spawn, complete its route and return in a timely manner before they simply de-spawn. Dealing with traffic is probably the biggest challenge of the game.

The primary ways of getting around the city for the citizens is walking and mass transit. For mass transit to work well, Transit needs to be convenient and widespread. I found that a mix of transit options is helpful as well. The metro is perfect for local travel, trains for medium distance and air planes for far travel. I…

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Cameron Lee Cowan

Creative Director of The Cameron Journal. Culture, political commentary, and much more!