The strange tale of a Cities: Skylines town with only one house
In Cities: Skylines (read our review here), you can follow around the various NPCs who move into your city. However, when there's tens of thousands of citizens, and you're swamped with the tasks related to building and managing a metropolis, it can be hard to keep tabs on a single person's life for very long, and difficult to find them again later.
I thought I'd fix this problem by creating a city in which only a single home could be built. Then I'd see who moved in and keep track of their lives. Here's what happened.
Welcome to the empty neighborhood
I begin by drawing some roads, but when it's time to zone them, I use the smallest brush to make only a single square available for residential housing. I've enabled the game's money and building cheats, and I put in everything else necessary for a city: a power plant and electrical lines, water and sewage pipes, a police station and fire department, schools, a garbage incinerator, and a couple unique buildings. It's a functioning city, but there's only enough real estate space for a single family.
Then, I wait.
I'm about to give up—it's been quite a while and nothing has happened—when suddenly a tiny house is built. There are no residents, but I give The Lilac Residence, as it calls itself, its own district. I pass the time by creating a bus line that runs by the house, and make other improvements to the city in case anyone ever moves in. No one moves in. Buses begin trundling by, carrying no passengers. I wait some more.
The telltale scooter
As I'm scrolling around the map, I suddenly notice a little blue scooter parked at the curb near the house. Its info tag says it's owned by Oscar Richardson. I've got a tenant! The scooter also tells me Oscar works at the town's incineration plant. That means, essentially, he takes his own garbage to work and sets it on fire. He seems happy about it, though. I click on the house: along with Oscar, there is another adult and two teens. I've got a family! Now, to spy on them.
The invisible family
Having only four citizens in the city, you'd think it would be easy to spot them. It ain't. Clicking the high school tells me two students are inside it, and I also determine that someone has enrolled in the college down the street. But I don't actually see anyone, including Oscar, outside. Days pass and I still haven't actually seen the Richardsons in person.
Finally, I spot someone. It's Nancy Richardson, the other adult, and she's headed to University, the city's cleverly named university. She walks right past the line of eager, empty buses and heads there on foot. I follow her all the way there until she disappears inside. I don't see anyone else for a long while.
I spot someone else walking through the city and get excited, but it turns out to be a wealthy elderly tourist. I find his SUV parked nearby. In a city with a number of tourist attractions including a stadium and a museum, he's decided to visit a small playground. A small, empty playground. Have it your way, Mason, you old weirdo.
Finally, one of the teenagers appears, Ashton. Five people in the city, and two have the same first name. He's walking from the house to a plaza. As I watch, he stops, puts a skateboard on the ground, steps onto it, and does a few ollies. That's teenagers for you, right? Always with the ollies. Meanwhile, more tourists have begun to arrive, some by plane, no doubt having read rave reviews of our small empty park. I build a metro line because the tourists been walking in from the airport, dragging their rolling suitcases behind them.
Oscar, the Richardson family patriarch, finally appears. He takes a bus outside his house and rides to work. Well, part of the way to work. The busline only goes downtown, and he has to walk the rest of the way to the incineration plant to burn his family's garbage. I add a new bus line that will drop him off right outside the plant.
My city is growing, as much as it can. I notice the population has increased to five: Oscar and Nancy have had a third child. Nancy has graduated University U, and is now working at the elementary school teaching her only student, the kid she and Oscar just had. Thanks to everyone (except Oscar) becoming educated, the house has leveled up as well, though I thought the original house looked cooler. I also finally spot Katie Richardson returning home from high school.
Oscar is the only one with no education, which makes me sad. His lack of book smarts is also preventing the house from leveling up again. I delete the garbage incinerator building, hoping he'll take his demotion as a sign he should go to school. It's not necessary: the house levels up because Ashton has become well educated. Oscar doesn't go to school, but gets a job at the presumably empty stadium, which has been visited by a total of three tourists. I build a new bus line just to transport him there.
Cities: Skylines has an in-game version of Twitter I'm so used to ignoring that I've only just now realized the Richardsons must be the only ones using it. Sure enough, the feed is full of their banal Chirps about smoke detectors and beautiful sunrises. I'm not sure where they're seeing these sunrises: the game has no day/night cycle. Maybe they're all high on bus fumes. Their Chirps allow me to finally locate the newest member of the family, though, Terry Richardson. She's in the park with Nancy. She's described as a teen but she looks like a little kid. She's also playing with a stuffed animal.
Aston and Katie have both graduated high school. Ashton is working at the stadium with his dad, probably pressured into carrying on the family business of morosely standing around in an empty stadium. Katie works at the observatory, which is much cooler. At this point, everyone pretty much has their own private bus to take to work, though Katie prefers to walk.
And then there were four
I notice one day that the town's population has decreased by one. Uh-oh. I check in with all the Richardsons. Katie is missing. Like any concerned City God, I immediately check the local hospital and doctor's offices, as well as the two cemeteries. Nothing. I finally realize what happened. Like many young adults, Katie simply moved out of her parents' home. With only one house in town, she had no choice but to move out of town completely. She's gone.
Ashton moves out soon after. Time passes, and Terry leaves the nest, too. I'm down to two citizens, and they're both now seniors, and retired. Oscar spends his time in a park, wandering around and occasionally Chirping. Nancy does the same. Weird thing is, they do it in two different parks, located across the street from one another.
Parks and wreckage
I'm a little bothered that they're not spending their autumn years in the same park together. Did they agree to meet in the park but didn't specify which one, and they're simply both waiting for the other to arrive? Or do they just not care for each other because she let the kids move away and he still smells like burnt garbage? I watch them for weeks as they mill around, just yards apart. They never return home. Is the empty nest simply too painful now?
It tolls for she
As I'm watching Nancy's park, I see a vehicle come around the corner, one I haven't seen in this city before. It's a hearse. Nancy is still alive, but the mortuary seems to have gotten a hot tip. The driver, Albert Ward, gets out, unconcerned that he's blocking the Richardson family private bus fleet. Nancy is now dead. Ward and his partner load her into the hearse and drive to the cemetery. This is terrible, but not the most terrible thing that will happen today. Not by a long shot.
Dazed and confused
Oscar is still standing in his park when the hearse arrives for him not much later. They load him in, as they did Nancy, but he's not dead. He's alive. He's confused. I bet he is. "What's happening? Where are you taking me? My wife was supposed to meet me in the park. Do you know where my wife is?" Yes. They know where his wife his.
Oh God no
He's still alive in there.
As the hearse arrives, Oscar's status changes briefly, so briefly I don't manage to get a screenshot of it. But I swear it says 'Visiting: Cemetery.' Is that what they told him? Is that how they got him in the car? "Come on, Pops, we're going to visit the cemetery." Then, he's in the ground. Visiting hours are over, Oscar. You're now a permanent resident. At least he and his wife are in the same park for a change.
My Chirper feed is still going off. Is Oscar Chirping about smoke detectors from his coffin? No, it's several other people, members of a new family. They've moved into old Richardson place. And why wouldn't they? Great location. Two parks nearby. Amazing bus service. No noisy neighbors.
Life goes on.