Welcome to Blimpton, a Cities: Skylines town where blimps blot out the sun

The Mass Transit expansion brought some new public transportation options to Cities: Skylines, but having already reported responsibly about them it's clearly time to throw a hundred blimps into the sky and see what that's like. My goal isn't just to blot out the sun with blimps, but to design a town around them. I want blimps to not only be the chief form of transportation for my citizens, but their only choice. In the new town of Blimpton, it's blimps or GTFO.

My first step is to plan my three zones: residential, commercial, and industrial. I unlock four extra squares of land (I'm playing with unlimited money and all buildings unlocked) so my buildable area looks like a giant plus sign, and I build power stations, water lines, and roads in three prongs of the plus. Not a lot of roads, mind you: I won't be needing them. But the few roads I build are long, winding, and stupid. My hopes are to discourage anyone from climbing into a car and driving: it'll just take too damn long. Want to get somewhere in New Blimpton? Better take a blimp.

A tool for renaming roads has been added to Cities: Skylines with the Mass Transit DLC, so I name my roads things like BLIMPS ARE REALLY COOL, GUYS and NO CARS ALLOWED. I figure it can't hurt. I throw in police stations, fire departments, hospitals, a cemetery, and a few other amenities. No schools, though. I want my citizens to be dumb enough to think that taking a blimp to the grocery store is a sensible idea.

I stare at the map for a bit, feeling like something is missing. Oh, right! I need to put in blimps. Heh. I build two blimp stops in each area, and connect them first with blimp lines (it dictates the path blimps will fly) and then create the blimp lines themselves. One goes from residential to commercial, one from residential to industrial, and one goes from commercial to industrial. I build blimp depots, to supply the lines with airships, crank up the vehicle count modifier to 500% (thus adding way more blimps) and boost the transportation budget to 150%. My three lines will have the maximum number of airships so there will be no excuses from my residents. I've already got 20 blimps in the air by the time the first house is built. People are moving in.

If only I could build a house on a blimp.

While I watch houses being built, I see a flicker of movement on one of my streets, the street I've named DRIVING IS DUMB, TAKE A BLIMP. It's a car! A car, on my street! I zoom in furiously, ready to expel the offender from my town, feeling the same way God must have felt when he looked down and saw that Adam and Eve had broken his one rule and were driving around the Garden of Eden.

It's a police car. Okay. Okay. Calm down. That's okay. The police are allowed to drive. It's not like they can fly an Anti-Crime Blimp around. Yet. Though frankly, that would be incredible. I also have to prepare myself to see other service vehicles driving on my streets, like garbage trucks, donut wagons, and hearses, because undertakers probably won't haul off the dead in dirigibles, much as I wish they would.

The residential zone quickly fills up with new homes, and I'm pleased to see a total of zero cars on the roads other than the occasional ambulance or garbage truck. My fleet of blimps drifts back and forth between stops, now around ninety airships in all. A bit puzzling, though: there are zero passengers. The people who have moved in are, much to my pleasure, unwilling to drive anywhere. But they also seem unwilling to board one of the many, many blimps that are waiting to shuttle them to the far-flung commercial and industrial zones.

To be fair, nothing has been built in the industrial zone, and while a few stores have appeared in the commercial area, they are all complaining about the lack of workers. Well, yeah, if no one is taking the blimps, no one is getting to work. 

A-ha! Staring at my blimp stats finally pays off, as I eventually see a single passenger using the blimp system! I feel like yelling "We got one!" and slamming my open palm down on the Blimp Alarm Button installed on my desk, like Annie Potts in Ghostbusters, only I don't have a Blimp Alarm Button installed on my desk. Yet.

Ninety blimps, one rider. It's a start. I click from blimp to blimp (to blimp to blimp to blimp), searching for the lone rider. I'd like to see where this brave pioneer is going. Finally, I locate the blimp he's on, which is headed for the empty industrial area. I follow it until it lands, then click on the passenger when he disembarks.

Thanks, Todd.

His name is Todd Harvey, an uneducated adult who works at... the blimp stop. The one he just landed at. The only person using the blimp network is a guy who works for the blimp network. It's like opening an expensive new restaurant and your only customer is the waiter. I'm a little disappointed, though Todd seems pretty stoked. As he should be, since he just rode a damn blimp.

Maybe my residents need a bit more encouragement to fly my friendly skies. After all, visiting stores no one works at isn't a draw, and with no industry there are no real jobs to commute to apart from taking tickets at a blimp stop no one visits. Maybe a little excitement is in order? Some razzle-dazzle? I quickly throw together a new district on the far end of the map and tastefully cram every goddamn specialty building the game offers into two square blocks: the giant shopping mall, the sports arena, the aquarium, the massive office towers, and so on. I add another blimp depot and three blimp stops and create new blimp lines between it and the other existing districts. Surely this will get people breathlessly clawing for some blimp rides.

The Everything District. It's got everything. Except cars.

It works! Instead of only Todd Harvey taking a blimp to his blimp-job, there are now a total of nine people in transit. That's a ridership increase of nearly 1000 percent, which would probably look good on a graph or PowerPoint presentation, but in truth it's still only about one rider per twelve blimps. What else could my town use?

Education, I suppose. I'd originally hoped to teach my residents using only the educational messages on the sides of my blimps, but it doesn't work that way. Instead, the blimp messages only boost the speed in which citizens can complete their education at the actual school buildings. So, I suppose I'd better build some real schools. I plop down a cluster of schools in the middle of the map, throw in some more pointlessly winding roads, add yet another blimp line to the residential area, and wait.

That's when disaster strikes.

Not a natural disaster (I've got those disabled) and not a Hindenburg disaster (blimps never explode). A car disaster. I am utterly horrified to suddenly see cars on my roads. Not service vehicles, but citizen-driven cars. They're everywhere. I'm aghast. I whirl my camera around the neighborhood, unable to believe my eyes. My precious blimps still fill the air but have been ignored by the gas-pumping, gear-shifting, double-crossing, four-wheeling heathens. You bastards.

"Fine, you want to drive?" I mutter. "I'll give you all the driving you want." As threats go, it's not a great one, like saying to someone who has asked for a pizza "You want pizza? Here are ten pizzas!" Also, it's worth noting that I'm threatening tiny computer-generated people who can't hear me. But I'm going to make driving, which is already ridiculously time consuming, even more so.

You are breaking my heart.

I create even longer, more-winding roads, effectively doubling drive time. It doesn't seem to matter. Driving still seems to be faster than blimping, and I think I know why. I've added so many additional blimps to the city that they're all lined up, forming what is essentially a traffic jam in the sky. Much as I love seeing blimps filling every last inch of airspace, it's just not an efficient mode of transport.

It's with great sadness I crank the vehicle modifier back down to normal levels. The extra blimps begin returning to the depot where they'll be taken into the back alley, deflated, folded up, and stored in boxes marked EXTRA BLIMPS (I'm assuming this is what you do with extra blimps).

It does seem to help a bit: the number of riders rises to almost 200, and I see more citizens queuing up at the blimp stops than ever before. Still, for a town of almost 4,000 residents, most people seem to prefer driving their cars along long, winding roads that are named with blimp-friendly phrases than actually climbing on a majestic airship. As if to signify my failure, one of the blimp depots catches fire and burns down.

My dream of a blimp-only town is dashed. I suppose people simply love their cars too much to give them up. My head was in the clouds, but their wheels are on the ground.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.