Designing a City in Cities VR

The popular Cities: Skylines game from Paradox Interactive has received an adaptation for the Meta Quest 2 in the new Cities: VR. Developed by Fast Travel Games, Cities: VR is a city-building and management simulator. Like Cities: Skylinesplayers can lay out and build up their city and run it as the mayor, giving them control over everything from the flow of traffic to city tax rates. Cities: VR is meant to introduce new players to the Cities series and to offer a new, fully immersive experience for fans of the original.

In Cities: VR, players can choose to get a true aerial view by flying over their city, or they can choose to watch it grow around them from the new Street View option. Many of the favorite features from Cities: Skylines have been included in the VR adaptation, though it is not currently possible to expand the city beyond the single square players select at the start of the game. The smaller scope does somewhat limit the ability to grow a massive population, but beyond that, the recreation remains largely faithful to the original series and allows players to design their ideal city and experience it growing while feeling like they are truly part of the world.


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Cities: VR promises a new way to experience city-building and management sims and to demonstrate some of the innovative ways VR is developing in the gaming space. Fast Travel has also recently created a publishing division within the company devoted to giving a voice to innovative game development in the VR space. Linda Kiby Zetterman, Live Producer at Fast Travel Games, recently sat down with Screen Rant to discuss adapting Cities: Skylines in Cities: VR and what players can expect from Fast Travel in the near future.

Cities VR streets and buildings

Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and Cities: VR generally.

Linda Kiby Zetterman: I’m Linda, and I’ve been working with games for 16 years.

I think Cities: VR is extra fun for me to work on, because I used to work at Paradox for a few years. I worked in the dev team at Paradox when the publishing department released Skylines, so I have played it a lot. It was extra fun to jump on the Fast Travel ship here and see where they’ve taken it for VR.

What has it been like, going from more traditional PC and console gaming specifically to virtual reality?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: It’s interesting. There are a lot of similarities, but there are also a lot of differences. For example, when someone is late for a meeting, people say, “Oh, they’re lost in VR.” Because you do not get your notifications when you’re in VR. You’re just gone.

I also understand the importance of FPS to not be nauseous. That’s really been key for us to reach steady 72 FPS to not have people get motion sick from playing the game. That’s not really something you see in flat [games], because of course, you care about the FPS. But 72? That’s so extreme.

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Have you noticed a lot of problems with motion sickness? Because this is not the first time I’ve heard that brought up specifically about Quest gaming. It seems like it’s something on everybody’s mind working in this space.

Linda Kiby Zetterman: I do not think it’s Quest, I think it’s VR in general. Some people react differently to different kinds of VR headsets, so if one does not work, you could always try another one.

For me, for example, when I tried Oculus for the first time – the very first early dev version that had a rather low resolution – I was motion sick for four hours after. But now I do not get it anymore, because they’re so much better now. Except what I do some weird motions.

That’s why I think it’s good that we have two sets of motions you can use in Cities. You can glide, but you can also teleport. I think the gliding thing is probably not going to work for everyone, but then you can use the teleport instead.

What was it like trying to adapt a popular management sim that’s mostly for PC to VR? What were the major challenges, apart from motion sickness?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: I would say two main challenges. One is the interface and one is performance.

The interface, because management games usually have a lot of texts and a lot of interface in general. And that’s something you want to avoid in VR, because it’s not really comfortable to read large, large chunks of text. So, we have reinvented the interface entirely. It’s entirely adjusted for VR now, and I think it works great.

And for the performance, since we had to reach 72 FPS and it’s basically run on a cellphone, we had to do some cutbacks. It’s not a one-to-one conversion. But it runs, and it runs fine. And I think that’s amazing.

Cities VR nighttime panorama

Could you tell me a little bit more about those cutbacks? What was it like trying to make those decisions on what to cut back and what to keep?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: Well, it was hard. But often the numbers spoke clearly. When you measure something, and this would save us X milliseconds per frame, then you know if you have to cut it or not. If it’s not a big save, then you do not have to cut it. But if it is a big save, then we cut it and maybe we can add it later, if we have made big saves somewhere else.

But the initial [step] was to cut a lot of things like. For example, it’s going to be a smaller map than the Skylines game. Skylines has nine squares that you can expand your city into. For the Cities: VR experience, you have the one square and it’s not going to expand. But you have to remember, it’s on a cell phone. And that makes sense.

You can still build a fairly large city, you just you’re not gonna reach a million citizens. Just because I’m saying this, someone probably will. But I think it’s rather unlikely.

What can fans expect when they start up Cities: VR for the first time?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: We have a tutorial that you can play. The tutorial partly tells brand new players how to play city management games. But if you’ve played Skylines before, it tells you how to control things in VR. I do recommend it.

Otherwise, if you do not play the tutorial, you’re going to have a bunch of maps to choose from. And then you can build your city on those maps fairly normally, except with cool VR tools instead.

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Could you give a couple of teasers about what those tools might look like?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: You have the building view, which is the left hand. Unfortunately, we do not have a left-handed mode, but it’s in the works. But for starters, we have the building tools on your left, like a palette that you choose from. And then on the right, you place things and teleport, and you do various other adjustments.

It’s going to be fairly different from mouse and keyboard.

Hopefully, fans are already expecting that. What were some of the more rewarding parts of Cities that you were able to adapt for VR? What things were you most excited to include?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: We have most features in the game, actually. That’s also something that’s amazing to me, and this team has worked really hard to make everything happen.

I do enjoy the Street View, and just flying around and watching the city build up around you. That’s a new experience, and it’s very cool.

You mentioned a left-handed mode possibly in the works. Are there other plans for post-launch support and content for Cities: VR that you can talk about?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: Yeah, we plan to support this game with free updates for quite a long time.

For starters, we’re going to have the two-week patch. But then after that, we’re going to start to listen more to what the players say and what they feel is missing or what they feel should be improved.

Come tell us in the discord. I think it’s / fasttravelgames, and we will listen there and in other places. But I’ll mostly be there.

Cities VR settings and ordinances

Do you guys have plans for DLC or spinoff content, or just it is going to stay in its current state with more updates?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: Right now we only have three updates in the works. But we’ll see what happens.

Could you tease what’s coming next for Fast Travel as a studio, but also now as a publisher?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: Fast Travel as a publisher, I think, is super exciting. There are a lot of good VR games out there that could use an extra push to be heard. And I think Fast Travel is in a fantastic position to make that happen.

I’ve seen some of the games that publishing is dealing with right now, and there’s gonna be some amazing things coming out that way.

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Fantastic. As far as the studio itself, what’s next for you guys?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: Well, next for us is to keep working on Cities. Other than that, just keep making really awesome VR experiences.

I think the studio is really committed. When you walk around there talking to people, they are living and breathing VR. It’s a really amazing environment.

Cities VR Hospital

VR is still in its infancy, so there’s a lot of opportunities for growth with that.

Linda Kiby Zetterman: Yeah, and I think it’s lovely that they released Virtuoso, which is maybe not a game as much as a VR experience, but it still fits. It’s amazing, and it’s creative, and it deserved to have a good place. And now it has.

What do you think of the VR space in general, and the opportunities that it’s posing for studios, for creators, and for gamers?

Linda Kiby Zetterman: I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s good when gaming expands its horizons. People have been standing and thinking, “Yeah, VR is gonna happen. It’s gonna happen this year. It’s gonna happen this year!” But it feels like we’re finally actually here.

VR is here to stay this time, and it’s finally good enough and cheap enough for people to have it at home. I think that’s part of it.

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Cities VR is available now on Quest 2.

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