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Post feature RSS CitiesCorp Concept - The Ugly Duckling

Straight from the development console: Check out how a game can change visually within some few months. CitiesCorp Concept was initially a project having the purpose to create a "new way" how to play city building games, sacrificing the graphical aspects at all. With the growing interest it had to go through a metamorphosis in order to satisfy the also the players' request to have a good looking game.

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Dear reader, all screenshots have been taken straight from the development console... so textures, meshes or whatever might look weird.

---- What to Do in Order to Get a Different City Simulation? ----

First Unpolished Version

My name is Sebastian and I’m a big fan of city building simulations. Over the past 2 decades, I’ve played almost every title that was related to this genre and I’ve noticed, as probably most of the virtual mayors, how little innovation has been brought into this genre – it felt a bit like playing always one and the same or similar game from the 90's.

So in 2014, you can guess after which city simulation has been released, I thought it would be a great idea to launch an own project, having the target to address this issue. The challenge was to make the cities more “flexible” and to create a "new style" of gameplay.

At that time, frankly speaking, I thought that the game will address only a small group of players who is interested more in gameplay rather than in graphics, so I down prioritized the nice and fancy textures. As a result of the development, the buildings got resizable and re-useable, the city economy became very challenging and the traffic system was completely released from its conventions.

Believe me, testing it was pretty addictive and time-consuming :-).

----- Going to Steam Greenlight ----

Initial version of CitiesCorp

Finally, in Oct. 2015 the game was ready to be published on Steam Greenlight and you know what happened? Many players commented that they voted ‘NO’, because even though they liked the idea very much, the game was simply too ugly. When similar comments appeared on Simtropolis, the forum with probably the most experienced city builders, I started to understand that the game got more attention than I have expected and I had to do something about the visual part.

----- Graphics Matters ----

First Ideas How to Change Graphics

Reviewing the comments, in particular on Simtropolis, I caught myself also reviewing the nice buildings that the community uses to share there. Instantly I understood that people love to look at their cities and love to share their cities with the community after having invested so much time in creating them. I started to ask myself, whether CitiesCorp Concept was in the position to handle that in a similar way and whether someone would post pictures of his or her CitiesCorp City – the simple answer was no, because the cities in other games looked much nicer. The unpolished CitiesCorp Concept even did not have modding, which could allow people to change the visuals according to their needs. So why should people bother to tell their friends?

----- The Ugly Duckling ----

First Steps

Being backed by the comments that it’s a good idea but an ugly game, it reminded me of the fairy tale of The Ugly Duckling that matured into a beautiful swan – I thought it would be a great analogy to CitiesCorp Concept and a motivation to start to make some changes. It was clear that it won’t be easy, but I wanted to see whether the opinion of the community would change in case it started to look better. So I started to polish the game step by step...

----- The Community Responded Immediately ----

continuing work

It took me just some few days to publish the first screenshots of the polished artwork and after one month I published a gameplay video on my Youtube channel. The community reacted very positively – the voting ratios on Steam turned upside down and the game started to catch and to rank up. The polishing comments have been just reduced to parts which I did not start to polish at that time at all and first “wow, looks great” appeared as well. How cool was that?

These positive feedbacks gave me even more motivation to put in more efforts into the remaining polishing process, including changing models and adding new features – I simply did not want to disappoint the growing number of followers.



CitiesCorp Today

----- Where is the Game Today? ----

The good news is that CitiesCorp Concept will be available on:

  • Steam, because it has been already Greenlit,
  • IndieGameStand; actually, they have been the first ones who said “OK”,
  • Maybe GOG? Well, that reminds me of contacting them ;-).

Personally, I hope that I can accomplish a beta version by end of 1Q2016.

As already indicated on CitiesCorp Concept’s Greenlight site, it took a bit longer, because also the preparations for modding started. Unfortunately, the modding itself won’t be ready until the release date, but it will be definitely patched at a later point in time.

----- The Metamorphosis ----

Initially I thought to record a new video, but finally I’ve decided to post screenshots, straight from the development console, due to 2 major reasons.

First, the game is still a bit buggy, many textures are unfinished and some parts are still not connected to databases, so a smooth gameplay video is still not possible.

Secondly, I wanted to show you also the screenshots that show the contrast between the first unpolished versions and the actual version, so you can make up your own mind how a game can change within some few months.

Have fun.

Polishing areas now and then

- User Interface, now and then

UI new

UI old

- Streets & Cars, now and then

streetsandcars new

streetsandcars old

- Environment items today - this is new, including "freestyle" pavements (sight behind the hedge) :-)


- Buildings now and then,



unpolished version

unpolished version

unpolished buildings in an polished environment

first polishing steps

today - created during a save-load testing session.

buildings today

Please leave a comment whether you liked it or not – but please leave something that I can work with…. the game is called concept, because I want to keep changing the game continuously by adding also your ideas and thoughts. In other words, commenting “it’s a sh*tt* game” is unfortunately not really something that can be coded, isn't it? ;-). I’m just kidding.

Have fun and take care,



Nice wrap up of the dev process. The new graphics are surely a win. But could you please elaborate a bit further on the "different" gameplay? Thats what bothers me too sometimes, though I only play city sims one in a while.

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saintworks Author

Hi, thanks a lot for your feedback.
So far, I did not record a new gameplay video with the new buildings artwork, but to get an idea what is CitiesCorp Concept all about, eventually you might be interested in my old video, recorded once I got the first textures changed (the difference today is a slight change in handling of the building).

The "difference" in a nutshell:
- The buildings are scaleable, by dragging, pulling them and whatsoever, so it's one building that you can mess around with (in contrast to zoning, like in other games),
- the streets are also not pre-designed - you have to put together your roadnetwork (the cool thing is, you have to influence the traffic by setting signs),
- and finally the economy - you have to assign a function to every building, e.g. a shop or a factory and start to set up an own production, sales process.

In case you have some further questions or comments, please post them here.

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Thank you for the explanation and the link. Looking very nice. So it is more like playing with lego bricks and being able to control everything directly instead of the other sims. With the addition of the blueprints (reminds me of the good old game Capitalism) this is looking very complex. The placement of the streets is very nice, too.

From the video I would make two suggestions:
-if you stack a few buldings together to create a custom shape it would be nice if you could safe this as a user shape (like prefabs in Unity).
-the placement of the streets would be very very nice (but complex) if you could paint freehand and the game would calculate a smooth version (using beziers) and place the street. I don't know how to tackle this and the free placement and "melting" streets to a bigger street like you have is already beyond my Unity knowledge). Also copying parts of the streets would be nice to get a consistent pattern.

I will watch out for further updates :) Keep up the good work!

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saintworks Author

Yes, it's more lego style or sandbox, if you like - with that, not a single corner of the city should look the same. It's definitely more time consuming, because in other games you can build faster, but once an area has been populated, I hope that the players will be very proud of it.

I had to smile when you mentioned Capitalism - because only experienced players are noticing that :-) Yes, the whole economy is leaned on this concept, because in my view this is the best economic simulation that has been ever created and there are not many brave people who are getting through this game. Frankly speaking, during testing, I had also my problems to keep the account balanced :-)

Thank you for your suggestions - they are awesome and I have them also on my agenda. So far, frankly speaking, I'm also still thinking how to do it "differently", so that's why I did not move into it (yet) - but once I get enlighten, I hope I'll be in the position to come up with a cool idea.

For the streets, you mentioned the consistent patterns - this is an important aspect - maybe you have noticed that, but I skipped completely the support grids - without a grid, cities are becoming more "European" as I use to call it :-). But having particular street shapes is very nice and useful as well - so my idea for making a patch is to deliver more information about lengths and angles, so that the player can "shape/grid" the area into any form he or she would like to have it - this could be even more precise than any solution that I've seen so far in such games. Let's see.

Thanks for watching the progress - please let me know, if you have some comments.

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To be honest, I am not one of the bravest players of Capitalism, I gave up very quickly. But now that you mention it, I have to pick it up again. It's the best training for CityCorps ;)

I support your neglect of the grid structure, regarding the layout, "European" cities are more interesting to look at (I may be biased here). What I meant, was being able to reproduce some road shapes so when you connect them, they will line up perfectly and you can place the same amount of equaly sized houses on the road. Believe me, being from Germany, this is something some people need ;D So giving infos about length and angels si very sweet. Maybe you can also implement some kind of snapping, let's say the road length only increments by 1m (or user defined) if you drag it, and you can only place roads in angles that are multiples of 5 or 10 degrees. This would also be nice for rotating houses etc. Yes, you will loose the little pieces of randomness you see in real cities but some people want to have it neat and tidy (Germany at least ;)
The "chaotic" placement would be nice for some settlements/smaller towns on the outskirts. Or maybe you can start the building from a small settlement and by time, if you treade the ressources, you can build streets and such...oh, I get carried aways, ignore my brainstorming ;)

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saintworks Author

Na dann können wir gleich auf Deutsch umsteigen :-) Beste Grüße aus den Vororten von Wien - für die Community, falls es sich jemand durchliest, sollten wir dennoch bei Englisch bleiben :-)

You are absolutely right - keeping a system in order to build cities is something very important - but it has to be a different user experience... and I'm still considering to go into it, but I do not want the players to fall back into the existing city games behaviours :-)
There is an additional aspect, and I think you will figure it out pretty quickly - when you start to build a street system you start automatically to consider the traffic jams - and your set up will matter, because the cars are chosing the closest route (in future, in far future, I plan also to implement speed limits in order to influence traffic) - CitiesCorp is even more strict than other games, although, so far, there is no "punishment" to have traffic jams - so, also the behaviour in setting of buildings changes (you will build smaller houses on purpose, because your streets wont make it and you won't be in the position to afford a change etc. etc.) At least this is what I've noticed when I was testing it - I had to switch on my brain and suddenly my city looked completely different than I was used to see in other games :-)
To make the long story short, because I call this game "Concept" it will be open to any amendment - so far even most of the databases survived the polishing process (OK, the buildings changed, so this required a new set up). And implementing features is peanuts in my view, so I'm going definitely to do something.
I you don't mind, I'll put you on my list for beta-testers - I really appreciate your inputs.
If it's OK with you, please just drop me a mail to office@citiescorp.com, so that I don't forget issue a key, once it's done :-)

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Haha sehr cool. Ich grüße zurück aus dem hohen Norden in Lübeck (bzw. momentan aus dem kalten Spanien). Ja, bleiben wir gern beim Englisch :)

Yes, please list me as beta-tester, from what you are telling, it sounds pretty interesting. One thing I can't quite figure out is how to advertise such a game. If you put "new", "innovative" or "different" or for the worst: redefining the genre out as tagline, this may backfire, because sadly it is overused a lot. But as you already have a fanbase I think the spreading word will do just fine :)
I'll drop you a line in a minute.

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>The street shapegrid thing, its going to be like those new games where the building space/pattern its done around the shape? giving strange buildings like a triangular ones on a edge? XD

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saintworks Author

Hi Vladiskov, I'm not sure whether I understood your question correctly, but I'll try to answer it. Actually, there is no shapegrip, neither for streets nor for buildings - so it will be up to the player to position stuff according to his/her ideas. Some of the fans suggested to add some "orientation" for positioning, like lengths, degrees etc. Actually I like the idea, if someone wants more precision, but it will be rather a support tool. So everything will be free and sandbox. If you build a triangular building, you will be also in the position to put a triangular road around it with as many lanes as you like. Please let me know, whether I could answer your question properly.

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Soo its cityskylines free road thing + simcity 3000 building editor + Capitalism (I and II and "labs") economy simulations (and player choises)?

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saintworks Author

Well, yes & no :-) Free positioning of roads including adding and deleting of lanes, free building of intersections (I did not post it here, but it's really complicated to build a intersection and I'm still not sure, whether the tools provided by the game are sufficient, sc3k building editor - I did not know it yet, do you have a link? - note, maps cannot be modified - they are just flat for the moment - and yes, economy is inspired by capitalism - I'd say, the actual economy is just a fraction of what capitalism is offering, but the shopping and production is more scaleable.
take care!

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saintworks Author

How awesome, Lübeck! - unfortunately I haven't been there,yet, but the coastline of the Baltic Sea is something really special. Some few years ago I was on my way from Hamburg to Rostock and I was considering to stop by, but unfortunately I didn't make it - I had to rush back to Hamburg (on a German Autobahn!!! ok, with a Citroen, so no rush possible :-)

Referring to CitiesCorp, also the "Hanse-Style" is something really impressive (and very challenging to code btw).

Teaser wording - interesting aspect. I was aware that it might be pretty depreciated or, respectively, also too aggressive - frankly, I do not know what will happen if more people start to read or play this game and whether they might start to criticize "of not fulfilling the promise". Good point, let's discuss it via mail.

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