Gif: Biffa Plays Indie Games (YouTube)

America’s infrastructure is broken. Part of that is because we refuse to maintain it, but a large part is because it wasn’t designed correctly to begin with. I mean, why worry about something as silly as “traffic management” when it’s much easier to just plow straight lines with our highways everywhere. But what if we could experiment with it, and improve it, on the fly? Just look at what this one guy does in Cities: Skylines to see what I’m talking about.


Cities: Skylines is the type of game for someone who was wondering where the hell a Sim City 2000 successor went. While yes, the goal is still to build a city, there’s a much heavier focus on traffic and making sure there isn’t pure gridlock everywhere. It’s one of those things that seems simple, until you try it out for yourself.


Which is exactly what Youtube user Biffa Plays Indie Games is talking about:

But it’s not just fascinating to watch because video games are inherently hypnotizing. It’s fascinating from a driver’s perspective. Sometimes a simple yield sign is vastly better than a traffic signal. Sometimes the difference between a four-lane and a five-lane highway is vast. But if you find yourself sitting in the same traffic at the same place every day, it might not just be a question of whether or not it’s rush hour. It could be poor road design.

And yes, roundabouts are always better.

All that said, no, Cities: Skylines is not a perfect, real-world traffic simulator. I imagine getting something that could emulate the whole of the sort of deranged “decision making” that goes on when most people drive is enough to turn all the computers in the world to smoke. But it does follow some real-life traffic principles, which the designers talked a bit about in an interview with Gamasutra:

There’s a limit of how many citizens and vehicles can be simulated on the streets at the same time. If the limit is not met, citizens can choose to travel. Citizens in the game have possible locations they wish to visit. These locations can fill up, which will result in more demand for those locations. When a citizen leaves for a location, they choose the fastest route there.

They take into account if they have a vehicle of their own, if there are congested roads and if there is public transport available. Based on these factors they walk, use public transport or their own vehicle. Pedestrians can use pedestrian paths that are separate from roads. Pedestrians cannot walk on highways.

When vehicles plan their route, they stick to it. They will not recalculate in the middle of the journey unless something on their path has been modified.


His whole channel is filled with hours of methodic driving improvements.

Now if only such drastic improvement was possible in the real world.

Deputy Editor, Jalopnik. 2002 Lexus IS300 Sportcross.

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