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Old 05-08-2011, 10:50 PM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Arrow Custom screen resolutions and graphics/speed/stability troubleshooting n' tips

This thread is dedicated to providing info and tips regarding graphics and speed issues for SimCity 4, I will add any new info as time permits.

Things you need to know how to do before proceeding:
  • You need to know how to set launch options for SimCity 4.
    • Note: you do not need to put in the game .exe in the launch options, only just the parameters that come after the .exe
  • Changing certain graphics options in-game will require you to restart the game.
  • Know how to set compatibility mode on newer operating systems.
    • To do this, locate the game exe, (typically c:\program files (x86)\steam\steamapps\common\simcity 4 deluxe\apps\simcity 4.exe), right click on it and select Properties, then click on the Compatibility tab
    • Place a checkmark on Run this program in compatibilty for: and choose an older OS
  • Know how to verify your game cache files
Ok, now onto the rest:

How do I set a custom resolution? What about widescreen support? (discussion)

From Widescreen Gaming Forum:

The following options should be added to your launch options:

Enables Custom Resolutions
Edit to match the resolution you want; where WWWW is screen width, HHH is screen height, and BB is color depth (16 or 32)
Enables full screen (Conversely -w enables windowed mode)
turns off the intro video. Apparently necessary if you have a widescreen monitor.
Here's an example you would add to the launch options:
-CustomResolution:enabled -r1680x1050x32 -f -intro:off
Help! Massive graphic glitches make the game unplayable! (discussion)
  • Chances are you have a nVidia card with outdated drivers, (particularly around the 260.xx range,) therefore you need to update your drivers to the latest (270.61 as of this post)(that's what fixed it for my GeForce 9800GT)
  • I've also heard limiting the CPU cores on multicore systems helps, do this by adding -CPUCount:1 to your launch options (discussion)
  • Try turning down/off the various in-game graphics options
  • Also mentioned here, overclocking can cause problems.
  • Try setting the OS compatibility to XP or earlier.
  • If all else fails, then use software mode
Hey, where's the In-Game Steam Community? (discussion)
Also, why cant I take screenshots using Steam?(discussion)
  • The Steam overlay does not currently work when you run the game in software mode.
  • Also, as a side effect, Steam screenshots don't work while in software mode either.
  • There is an in-game screenshot system that can be used regardless of rendering mode chosen:
    • (Ctrl+Shift) A - Photo Album
    • (Ctrl+Shift) S - Take a snapshot
Laggy, choppy, and slowdowns, oh my! (discussion)
  • Update your Video card drivers
  • Try turning down or off various graphic features
    • These seem to have the most effect:
      • # of Cars/Sims
      • Building update Speed
      • Shadows
      • Clouds/Fog
      • turning off color cursors
  • Try changing how many cores are used, add to your launch options: -CPUCount:x (where x is the number of cores you want the game to use)
  • Setting OS compatibility to XP or earlier.
  • Forcing v-sync in your video card's control panel might help.
  • Use software mode, the Steam overlay won't work though.
The dreaded Crash to Desktop (CTD) (discussion)
CTDs seem all too common on modern games and can be pretty difficult to diagnose. (I'm looking at you Fallout 3!). If you're lucky, you will only get a CTD only after 2-3 hours of gameplay.
Anyway, here are some tips:
  • Save early, save often! (should go without saying, especially since SC4 doesn't have a autosave feature that I know of.) CTRL+s is your friend!
  • Verify your game cache files, defragging might be a good idea too.
  • Update your drivers (Are you sensing a pattern here?)
  • Only use one core, add -CPUCount:1 to your launch options.
  • Set compatibility to XP or earlier.
  • Buggy and/or too many plugins can cause instability issues
  • Overclocking or CPU/GFX overheating may be a cause of instability.
  • Software mode might be more stable, with the usual caveats.
Also Useful: Manual and Keyboard Shortcuts
For whatever reason, Steam does not provide a manual or any useful reference, so here are some helpful resources:

Game manual links:
If the above link doesn't work, try the one below and find the link


Unfortunately the manual is nowhere to be found on EAs site.

Here's a list of all the known keyboard controls:
Mostly based off of this site:

        F1  God Mode
        F2  Mayor Mode
        F3  My Sim Mode*
        F4  Options Panel

  (Ctrl) ~  Pause Simulation
  (Ctrl) 1  Turtle Speed
  (Ctrl) 2  Rhino Speed
  (Ctrl) 3  Cheetah Speed

Arrow Keys  Smooth Scroll in arrow key direction
Ctrl Arrow  Step Scroll in arrow key direction

     1 - 5  Far to close zoom levels
         +  Zoom in once
         -  Zoom out once

   Page Up  Rotate City Counter-clockwise
 Page Down  Rotate City Clockwise
  Spacebar  Center on Cursor

         G  Highlight Grid
  (Ctrl) Q  Quit Dialog
  (Ctrl) S  Quick Save

        /  Query Tool 
  (Alt)    Route Query (U-Drive-it)

ZONING (note the convenient keyboard placement)
 Q W E     L/M/H Density Residential
  A S D    L/M/H Density Commercial
   Z X C   L/M/H Density Industrial
        Y  Landfill
        B  Demolish & Bulldoze
        V  De-zone

Use in any combination to achieve optimal zone placement
      Shift   Temporarily disables automatic street placement 
        Alt   Rotates zone to face perpendicular road
       Ctrl   Forces a specific plot size 
              (Ctrl works with M/H Industrial, but you don't
               see the arrows until the zone is placed)

             R  Roads
       (Alt)    Streets
      (Ctrl)    Avenues*
     (Shift)    Highways
(Ctrl+Shift)    Bus Stop*

             T  Railroad Tracks
(Ctrl+Shift)    Passenger Depot
 (Alt+Shift)    Freight Depot

     (Ctrl)     Elevated Rail*

    (Shift)     Subway
(Shift+Alt)     Subway Station

             M  Car & Passenger Ferry*
     (Ctrl)     Passenger Ferry*

             L  Power Lines

             I  Pipes "Irrigation"

             P  Small Police Station
       (Alt)    Large Police Station
     (Shift)    Jail
      (Ctrl)    Dispatch Police
(Ctrl+Shift)    Police Kiosk*

             F  Small Fire Station
       (Alt)    Large Fire Station
      (Ctrl)    Dispatch Fire

             H  Small Health Clinic
       (Alt)    Hospital

             K  Elementary School (K? "Skool"?)
       (Alt)    High School
     (Shift)    City College

      HOME/END  Manually rotate building before placing

       NumLock  Hide Panel
(Ctrl+Shift) A  Photo Album
(Ctrl+Shift) S  Take a snapshot
(Ctl+Alt+Sh) F  Full screen refresh
      (Ctrl) X  Open cheat code dialog
(Ctrl+Shift) C  Toggle terrain contours
(Ctrl+Shift) O  Obliterate city dialog

* Added as part of Rush Hour/My Sims/Deluxe
That's a lot of key combos to remember, I know I only use the basic stuff

The most valuable ones to me IMO are the ctrl/alt/shift zone placement modifiers and home/end for rotating buildings since there is no mouse equivalent.

Command Line Options
Here is a reference to all of the command line options you could add to your launch options (source)
Windowed Mode - To change back to full use -f (I believe this needs a -r command after it to make sure it works, it is advised to add -r800x600x32)
Software Rendering Mode - Use if launching in hardware mode fails
Turns all the audio output off
WxY is a resolution (without using -CustomResolution:enable the screen resolution has to be either: 800x600, 1024x768, or 1280x1024)
Z is colour depth (32 or 16)
Turns the introductory splash screen and video off, instead taking you straight to the game
Options for the More Advanced User

Enables custom resolutions including the 16:9 ratio
Change the rendering mode of the game, either using DirectX or OpenGL libraries or software rendering
Where x is the number of the processors your computer has.
CPUPriority lets other processes (programs) use the processor more when the game isnt in use.
Off (default) shows all missing models as brown boxes.
On just doesn't show anything for them at all.
On (default) loads all the none visible models in the background, whereas Off doesnt
Change english to a language to change the language (well duhh) only works if you have the language sets.
Valid languages are: English, German, UK English, Traditional Chinese, and Japanese.
Options for the SUPER Advanced User
Warning: Not all effects are known.

Allows the player to launch additional application instances after the first one. By default, an attempt to run a second instance of the app will merely call forth the first instance of the application.
Sets the color depth of the game cursors. Some hardware doesn't like some cursor color depths.
Disables the use of application-supplied versions of standard system cursors such as the arrow or hand cursor. Normally, the customized application-supplied versions are used.
Disables application exception handling, which provides for safer shutdown of the app in case of a crash.
Enables game pausing when you switch to another application. This is useful for if you go away from the game and you want it to sleep while it is in the background. This is a stronger form of the -CPUPriority command line option.
If enabled, then the system does nothing when requested to display an object for which there is no graphical representation. By default this option is disabled and objects that are missing a graphical representation are drawn as a large "package" that suggests you can download the graphics for this object from the SimCity web site or similar.
Enables application-supplied IME (input method editing) for Asian systems. If disabled, then the default operating system IME will take control. By default, IME is enabled. If it is disabled via this command line option, you'll probably want to run the app in windowed mode (-w) in order to take advantage of the OS-supplied IME GUI.
-RenderProp:,value -RenderProp:" value"
Forces a render property to be set. See documentation on render properties for a discussion of them. You can use this command line multiple times on a single command line.
This is an internal command line used to indicate that a prior instance of the app launched the current instance while it was shutting down. This causes the current instance to wait for the previous instance to fully exit before proceeding. This is useful for automatic app restarting during certain operations.
Specifies the directory where the users game directory is. If the default subdirectories of "Regions\", "Plugins\", and "HTTPCache\" arn't found, then it creates an instance of, (in the case of Regions, it copies the default set over). The default game data directory defaults to being the same directory as the game installation directory. Quotes are necessary if the path name has spaces. Make sure there is a "\" on the end of your path or it creates directories like "testPlugins\" and "testRegions\"
If On, this causes the app to write a log file that describes the user's system configuration. The file is named "computer-config-log.txt" and is placed in the same directory as the program executable.
Sets the code page portion of the locale for the C runtime library. Normally, the code page is determined by the language the application runs in (see the -l command line option)
-ConfigLog:server | off
Sets the destination of where to write the computer configuration log specified by the -WriteLog command line option. By default, the server is "studiotech.max.ad.ea.com".
Well, that's it for now, any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Last edited by Rellik66: 07-26-2012 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 05-11-2011, 05:42 PM   #2
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Very helpful. This helped me get it running at 1920x1200x32 and solved graphical issues I was having.

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Old 05-14-2011, 11:16 PM   #3
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Updated to include CTD info
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Old 05-15-2011, 08:17 AM   #4
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Sticky this... Also include a link to the NAM mod
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Old 05-23-2011, 10:11 AM   #5
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Updated to include all known command launch options.

Originally Posted by Acturas View Post
Sticky this... Also include a link to the NAM mod
I am considering doing a general gameplay faq (including popular mods), I just need to find the time.
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Old 10-23-2011, 12:10 PM   #6
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PLEASE sticky this thing. Lots of crucial launch option info.
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Old 11-18-2011, 05:49 PM   #7
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I'd sticky this if I was a mod :|

-CPUCount:4 = heaven! the game loads instantly and I'm guessing actually uses all four cores?
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Old 11-22-2011, 02:25 AM   #8
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This needs to be stickied ASAP.
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Old 12-03-2011, 12:43 PM   #9
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For anyone having some trouble starting the game, try to combine different commands together, even if somewhere it's written to do not. For example the CPUCount:1 isn't working for me, instead using the same number as my cores it works. I was able to play the game adding this string:

-CustomResolution:enabled -r1680x1050x32 -f -introff -CPUCount:4 -d:Software

This worked for me: I'm using Windows 8 Developer Preview 8102, a quad core (q9400) and AMD's 5770, on a 1680x1050 display. This should work also for windows7.

Last edited by theangi: 12-03-2011 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:23 AM   #10
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Great guide. Been playing SC4 for years and never new about some of these options
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:39 AM   #11
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Somehow, I got SC4 to open windowed, and I'm pretty sure I used these directions. However, I uninstalled and reinstalled it, and no longer want it to open windowed. It's still opening in windowed mode. Is there a way to start over and keep it from doing it? As I said, I've uninstalled and reinstalled it multiple times. It's running too slow windowed and I just want it to run fast again with default settings.
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Old 07-18-2012, 07:47 PM   #12
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I hate self bumping, but with the sale, I think this deserves to be near the top.
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Old 07-19-2012, 07:36 PM   #13
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CTD was gone (or at least could play 4 hours continuously -- before applying this tip my computer goes down every 2 hours). I love this tip.

I didn't thought that 1680x1050 and CPUCount:1 would work not so bad on
Duel Core 2.2GHz 2GB RAM with GeForce 9300GS. (but not smooth when you driving on zoom level 1~3(far~normal), though it's due to low-level graphic card or so rather than due to the tip itself)

Last edited by Lump_Kid: 07-19-2012 at 07:41 PM.
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Old 07-20-2012, 06:46 AM   #14
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I can´t seem to find the SimCity 4.exe so i can´t set XP mode. It´s not in the folder you posted and i was not able to locate it via the search function. Hum...
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:13 AM   #15
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"c:\Program Files (x86)\steam" assumes a 64 bit system is present, XP is rarely 64 bit, so try looking in "c:\Program Files\steam" instead.

If you installed Steam somewhere else, try right clicking on your start menu Steam shortcut, select properties, and click on Open File Location, and that should take you to where Steam is installed, from there you should be able to go to \steamapps\common\simcity 4 deluxe\apps\simcity 4.exe

edit: Oh, hey I missed a folder "common", now corrected.

Last edited by Rellik66: 07-20-2012 at 12:58 PM.
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