Traffic "AI"... This is why services and traffic are broken!
One of the biggest problems people are having with the game is the massive traffic-jams that seem to clog the entire system up. Now, this is responsible for the ineffective coverage of ANY traffic-based services (Fire, Police, Garbage, Medical, Education, Mass-Transit.) There are also a number of smaller complaints that may also be directly related to how Glassbox handles traffic.
"Workers aren't commuting."
"There aren't enough workers, even though I have plenty of population."
"Tourism is broken."
"Emergency services are slow/unresponsive/broken."
The agent system that is used for utilities (power, water, sewage) seems to be identical to the system that handles traffic.
The problem is that, just as power can sometimes take a ridiculously long time to fill the entire map (because the "power agents" just randomly move about with no sense) traffic and workers can do the same thing. Workers leave their homes as "people agents." These agents go to the nearest open job, not caring at all where they worked yesterday. They fill the job, and the next worker goes to the next building and fills that job, and so it goes until all the jobs are "filled." So, when you have all your "worker" sims leaving their houses for work in the morning, they all cluster together like some kind of "tourist pack" until they have all been sucked into "jobs." They don't seem to care if the job is Commercial or Industrial, only that it's a job.
"Scholars" are handled exactly the same way. As are school busses and mass-transit agents. This is why you see the "trains" of busses roaming through your city, and why entire sections of town may never see a school bus, despite having plenty of stops... Once all the busses are full, they return to school and stay there until school is done for the day.
Now, here is where it gets really good... In the evening, when work and school lets out, they all leave and proceed to the absolute closest "open" house. They don't "own" their houses. The "people" you see are actually just mindless agents (much like the utilities agents, as I said earlier) making the whole idea of "being able to follow a 'Sim' through their entire day" utterly POINTLESS!!"
The reason traffic problems cause so many other side-effects, is because EVERYTHING relies on those "people" who are stuck in herds trying to go to whatever closest "slot" they can fill. Casinos go bust because "tourists" are just "shopper agents" from out of town. You MUST put casinos RIGHT next to the entrance to your city if you want them to succeed. Placing street-car stops by the casinos can actually cause more harm than good! Why? Because the "shoppers" will board the streetcar stop (because it's the closest open slot) and be shuttled to a shopping district instead.
Sharing resources and services gets to be a joke, because all the vehicles ("agents") get bound up with the busses at the entrances to cities.
What a joke
Ultimately, the problem is that the developers have decided to handle sims like they handle any "mindless" power-agent. This results in mindless sims, and mindless services. Mindless services reduce the actual quality of the simulation. Since no sim actually owns a house, they don't REALLY care what ammenities are built around it. THIS is why it is nearly impossible to have distinct districts of each wealth level... A low-wealth agent may very well end up in a high-wealth house at the end of the day. Why? Because it was the closest open house. The next morning, that agent sets out to find "high-wealth" work. Then after work, may end up in a medium-wealth home with 2 kids! There's no rhyme or reason for the way they behave, OTHER than just taking the shortest (not quickest) path to the nearest open space.
Police services suffer from this as well. They converge on the first crime committed, and ignore the second crime until one car rushes off to deposit the criminal-agent in jail. THEN the other cars can respond to the second crime. There's no zones, and there's no actual "prevention."
Fire services also send every unit to the first available fire. It's utterly pointless to try and "decentralize," because every truck from the city will still converge on one fire, ignoring the other three until it's out. Once the first fire is out, they all rush to the next fire. The only thing you get for having multiple fire-trucks is that they put the fires out slightly quicker. Really, you can have the exact same fire coverage quality with only one of each type of fire-unit. "Fire Marshalls" are COMPLETELY random, and just seem to roam around picking whichever building is "most at risk," ignoring the fact that an entire neighborhood is high risk, and the next "most at risk" is on the other side of the city... Which gets them stuck in traffic.
Interestingly enough, ambulances seem to act independantly of one another, but they still refuse to take "right of way" and are constantly bogged in traffic. Medical vans just act like all the rest of the service vehicles.
Here's a video of the terrible horde mentally pathfinding in action
Another video, this time showing Sims entering the nearest empty homes on their way "home" after work.
EDIT: Possible population padding also found
Did EA lie about theoretical population sizes?
So this is the second thing that has been puzzling the hell out of me today. Did EA lie about how much population a city could support in this game in order to reassure the potential player-base that small tile sizes would be okay?
Check out this thread from the Sim City forums. In particular this post:
A Low Income - Low Density House has 6 adults, 4 are workers and 2 are shoppers. If you destroy this home, your total population at the bottom center of your screen goes down by 6. Makes sense.
A Low Income - Med Density House has 60 adults, 40 are workers, 20 are shoppers. If you destroy this home, your total population at the bottom center of your screen goes down by 60. Makes sense.
A Low Income - High Density House is where things go all whacky... By the pattern above you would assume that a high density home would be 600 adults where 400 are workers and 200 are shoppers, and this is true. If you look at the data layers (at the right times) you will see that there are indeed 600 residents and 400 are workers and 200 are shoppers....
BUT... If you destroy this High Density house, your population goes down by 5200!!!!! (As well as increasing by 5200 when it gets rebuilt)
So either the worker/shopper count is bugged for high population buildings, OR they are purposefully "padding" the bottom center population numbers to make the city look bigger than it actually is.
So what the hell? This basically confirms a lot of suspicions of mine and others that we aren't actually seeing that many sims in our cities and it also explains why only 1/10 of the population is working. We don't actually have as many people in our cities as we think! EA has stated numerous times that their internal testers were able to get cities of 500k and even 1 million sims, but in reality they may have been blowing smoke up our asses! What the fuck, if I'm having traffic problems at ~100k sims (which is actually more on the order of 10k sims) imagine what would happen if I had 10 times more sims on the streets.
EDIT: DEVS ARE WORKING ON A FIX FOR THE TRAFFIC PATHFINDING
A peak at the traffic changes coming in a patch: http://t.co/ZWiXjRwJML
FYI: The dev: https://twitter.com/MaxisGuillaume often asks people to send him their Origin ID if they have a really good example of a bug in their city, especially if it's a tricky one to reproduce. If you some craziness going on in your game send it their way.