Mod of the Week: Network Addon Mod, for SimCity 4
Since EA just spent months fixing that mistake everyone (except EA) knew they never should have made, you may find yourself tempted to finally buy the 2013 version of SimCity. Nuts to that, says I, 'cuz there are still plenty of changes, additions, and enhancements being made to 2003’s SimCity 4, courtesy of the ever-growing Network Addon Mod. NAM is entering its 10th year and still adding new features to the game's transportation system. Lots of them.
The Network Addon Mod is all about giving you options -- tons of options -- on how to thoughtfully and efficiently design your city's transportation system. Some of the elements it adds are major, like massive highway systems, high speed rail, and working canals, and some are small, like turning lanes, nicer curved roads, and elevated pedestrian walkways. Finally, the mod fixes bugs and improves the game's traffic systems with better pathfinding for your tiny citizens.
This latest update, version 32, promises some exciting new features. From the mod page:
"The NAM Elevated Viaducts for Roads, One-Way Roads, and Avenues are now available in a draggable form, at both Level 1 (7.5 meter) and Level 2 (15 meter) heights, complete with FLEX Height and On-Slope transitions."
I have no earthly clue what that means. Also:
"Transit station functionality has been further improved, including the beginning of the implementation of the SLURP, which will gradually raise all transit stations to NAM standards."
Again, no idea what they're talking about. Frankly, most of the descriptions from the mod are completely baffling to me. However! You don't need to fully understand every last detail of the mod in order to enjoy it. Here's one teeny example of how it became useful in my own game. In a primitive SimCity 4 metropolis, you'd see something like this where the train tracks and the streets intersect:
Lame! Cars have to stop every time a train comes along. What is this, the Middle Ages?
That's more like it. NAM adds oodles of options for underpasses, overpasses, and intersections, allowing your SimCitizens to quickly and efficiently drive from their homes to the front door of your mansion so they can complain about the deadly pollution and lack of police stations or whatever is currently bothering them. Even more importantly, you can see just how well the new items fit into the game, both functionally and aesthetically. None of the parts and pieces look like they don't belong in the game.
Please note, the next two images are not from my own SimCity, which is fairly SimCrummy, but from the NAM wiki and the ModDB page, where people actually know what they're doing and can build things that are actually pleasant to look at.
A big focus of NAM has been the Real Highway System, based on a feature Maxis intended to include in the game but never did. It allows for bigger, beefier highways that allow greater speeds and vehicle capacity. These highways can range from simple two-lane affairs to massive, sprawling, ten-lane asphalt rivers. The mod has a myriad of parts and pieces to help you build intricate networks of highways and interchanges.
The NAM mod also includes an entire neighborhood's worth of plugins. The High Speed Rail plugin modernizes your city with both ground-based and elevated bullet trains, and provides several stations to choose from, including a massive multipurpose station that includes bus and regular rail service. The Ground Light Rail plugin lets you add passenger trams to your city streets, which run on a different network of rails than the subway does.
Even if you’re not looking to build a massively complex city, there’s tons of little items in the mod to enhance your experience, and everything I've played with is not only functional but blends perfectly into the look of the game. And, as you can see, even a decade later, the game itself still looks fantastic. I’ve heard from a few sources that SimCity 4 doesn’t run that well on newer systems, but on Windows 7 I didn’t experience any crashes, even with the mod installed.
If NAM has a single drawback, its that there are so many new parts and pieces added that it can be hard find what you're looking for, and sometimes it can be hard to even know precisely what you're looking for. If you feel a little lost, as I did, there’s a forum with all sorts of how-tos and tutorials.
Installation: It’s super easy. Download here, then extract and run the .exe file. (A window will pop up, telling you it's using something called "Cleanitol" which sounds slightly alarming, as if it is wiping your hard drive clean. It's isn't. It's searching for outdated NAM files and will update any it finds.) Once installed, launch the game normally, and you'll find all the parts and pieces in the construction menus.