An Interview with Cities: Skylines 2 developer’s CEO, Mariina Hallikainen

Enlarge / Colossal Order CEO Mariina Hallikainen, from the company’s “Winter Recap” video.

Colossal Order/Paradox Interactive/YouTube

It’s not often you see the CEO of a developer suggest their game is “cursed” in an official, professionally produced video, let alone a video released to celebrate that game. But Colossal Order is not a typical developer. And Cities: Skylines 2 has not had anything close to a typical release.

In a “Winter Recap” video up today for Cities: Skylines 2 (C:S2), CEO Mariina Hallikainen says that her company’s goal was to prevent the main issue they had with the original Cities: Skylines: continuing work on a game that was “not a technical masterpiece” for 10 years or more. The goal with C:S2 was to use the very latest technology and build everything new.

“We are trying to make a city-building game that will last for a decade,” Hallikainen says in the video. “People didn’t understand; we aren’t using anything from Cities: Skylines. We’re actually building everything new.” Henri Haimakainen, game designer, says Colossal Order is “like fighting against ourselves, in a way. We are our own worst competition,” in trying to deliver not only the original game, but more.

Cities: Skylines 2‘s Winter Recap, with reaction to the game’s launch from staff and plans for future updates, including performance improvement and a forthcoming expansion pack.

“Everything new” and “more” has often meant “not optimal,” as we noted after the game’s launch. It has led to some remarkable candor from the developer, and its publisher. Madeleine Jonsson, community manager at publisher Paradox Interactive, says that in order to work with players’ feedback about the game, “we have to just speak about these things insanely candidly.” That’s why, in last week’s patch notes, and Colossal Order’s “CO Word of the Week,” players can read not just about the typical “major bug fixes and performance improvements,” but that Cities: Skylines 2 (C:S2) should see better performance in areas with lots of pedestrians—and, “yes, they now have level of detail (LOD) models.”

Just before Colossal Order issued that patch and went on holiday break, Hallikainen spoke with Ars at length about offering up that kind of gritty detail to players, the decision to release C:S2, the difficulty of following up a game that saw nearly 10 years of active development and more than 60 downloadable content packs, and more on the specific issues the team is working with players to improve. And why, out of everything that’s coming up for C:S2—including a Ports and Bridges expansion—modding support is perhaps the most exciting for her.

Modding, something the Cities: Skylines community has already started without any official tools, will further reveal the promise of the simulation her team has been working on for years. And, presumably, it’s a chance to look forward to something exciting and unknown rather than pull things from the past forward for re-examination—like I essentially asked Hallikainen to do, repeatedly.

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. It was conducted on December 12 between Hallikainen in Finland and the author in the Eastern US.

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