You can add this to the list of things I’ve had a change of heart about recently. But yeah, I admit it, I was a bit of a snob when it came to creative modes. I understood Creative Mode’s use in the context of massive projects. You only have to look at something like one of the recreations of the Mines of Moria in Minecraft to get that. So my snobbery was reserved moreso for your more typical gaming experience. Where creative mode wasn’t being used to achieve some great work, but rather to just play.

My thinking went that this was essentially the same as turning on the cheats, typing in IDDQD and playing on easy mode.

Now, everyone is entitled to play their own way. Fortunately that isn’t something I’ve had to come to any sort of epiphany on. But I just didn’t get why anyone would want to do it. It seemed to me that you would be robbing yourself of much of the potential enjoyment the game could offer by doing this.

It particularly evoked my mental-eyeroll reaction when my kids want to play creative mode nigh on exclusively. I think I’ve mentioned before, but my youngest has been all about the Minecraft lately. He’s only 8, and so my response to creative mode for him has certainly been more accepting. And perhaps this opened the door to my change of mind, I don’t know.

But if it did — it certainly didn’t achieve the feat singlehandedly.

As even recently, while watching countless YouTube videos on Cities: Skyline every time I encountered a city with the Unlimited Money mode turned on I just couldn’t help it! I thought less of their achievements.

Sure, it might not be the best looking city. But by golly, I earnt my way there! Walking up-hill in the snow, both ways!

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I came around. But it dawned on me that I had only earlier today. I think the combination of seeing the frankly impressive and (as the name has suggested all along) creative efforts of my youngest son, alongside seeing and coming to realise what is possible in Cities: Skylines through seeing it in action.

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly creative person by default. It’s not something that comes naturally to me in any event. But I’ve started to come to a point with Cities: Skylines now where I’m able to progress past monkey-see monkey-do and at least come up with rudimentary designs of my own and solve traffic problems and the like without having to have a Biffa video up on the other screen to guide me.

This fact was driven home for me when I evolved my own bus-interchange solution before I saw it anywhere else.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’ve finally come to recognise there is a whole other set of skills developed and enabled by the use of creative modes.

Many of you are probably thinking, ‘Well duh‘ at me right now. Probably fair. I don’t think this realisation is as much an intellectual one as it is the removal of a more emotion driven blocker.

Does this mean I’m going to jump feet first into an unlimited money mode city? Hard to say. I don’t think so. But it isn’t a hard no now either. Where I’ve been mostly contemplating it at least, is with the concept of the blogger-city I mentioned in the last journal as a goal for this month. I was thinking in particular about how nice it might be to be able to build it as I know I want it right from the outset.

Perhaps there’s a compromise in here somewhere with an unlock-all but still keeping the money constrained?

I’ll have to think about it. Not sure when I’ll kick this city off yet, most likely after the first post for the To the Moon play-along is up and out there. :)


Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.


Dan · June 4, 2020 at 12:51 am

Years ago I used to use the console to load individual maps or sections of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, to replay them over and over, to practice the combat in those particular sections.

Creative mode, in the same way, simply allows you to learn a games systems more rapidly than you might while working on a scenario :)

I gave up on Cities: Skylines and refunded it, perhaps if I’d stuck with it, without limits, I might have grown to love it, but the perceived complexity put me right off.

    Naithin · June 4, 2020 at 9:29 am

    I certainly have used creative mode to learn things in the past. But I stopped for some reason. The last time I remember doing it was with Space Engineers. The tutorial at the time (they later revamped this massively) started in creative mode so I just ran with it I think.

    But after picking up the basic controls I moved to the ‘normal’ mode for fear I was learning the game ‘wrong’ and starting to rely on things I wouldn’t be able to do when I was playing ‘for real’. (Maybe in fact this thought process is why I stopped, hah.)

    In any case, re: Cities: Skylines — I can definitely understand. I bought it more or less at launch. Continued buying the DLC (generally when on deep discounts, at least) but until this year had maybe put in 15-16 hours total into it. It is complex. If you don’t have the inclination to supplement your learning either through much, much YT guide watching or even more dozens upon dozens of hours of trial and error it is likely not something you’ll progress past a certain point where all the complexities merge together into a complex knot of problems.

    The simulation runs much deeper than I expected. For example, it was only recently I realised that coal power plants? Well… They actually require a coal source. The plants will endeavour to import the coal from off-map cities if you don’t have an internal source, but if for any reason they can’t get it (or get it in time) they will eventually shut down. I learnt this while playing an island map with no real coal sources and it put me into dire straights for a while as I tried to muster the money to replace enough of the power generation in the city with alternate sources before everyone fled. Hah.

    In any case, it’s a wonderful, wonderful game. But it isn’t one that can be jumped into quickly (without the benefit of the ‘cheat’ mods which are essentially a creative mode).

bhagpuss · June 4, 2020 at 2:00 am

I’ve always seen it like this: what creative modes do is revert games back to a subset of the tools the designers used to build those games in the first place and then leave you to use them to make something of your own. At that point it’s no longer a “game” although you can use it to play games if you want.

You can’t really use it to play the same game, though, because that version of the game has rules that you no longer have. So comparing them is meaningless. You are at best playing different games but one of you is most likely not playing a game at all.

    Naithin · June 4, 2020 at 9:32 am

    I think the two entirely different games aspect is mostly what I’ve come to grasp too. Where one isn’t necessarily any more valid than the other, they’re just not comparable. It’s the difference between playing a board game and painting, I think.

Asmiroth · June 4, 2020 at 3:39 am

I love creative mode, simply for testing out ideas without artificial constraints.

I’ll use Jurassic Park as an example. You start each “normal” map with no real money, at least compared to the last. You are stupidly constrained from making “smart” decisions, and are forced to make “economic” decisions to generate income. Thankfully JP has a specific element that transfers fossils, so you can artificially boost your money pot. God forbid you decide to breed a carnivorous dinosaur and are just short of space to keep him alive.

When you move to the creative mode map, you can finally mess around with the overlapping feature sets. You can test which dinosaurs HATE each other. Which ones require an insane amount of space to be happy. The types of food each likes.

The reason I can’t do this effectively in the “normal” game is that there simply isn’t enough information or feedback available to make good decisions prior to execution. More like “I wonder what happens if I do this”. In a normal game that can cause a massive cascade of failures (say like that Raptors LOVE to knock down fences). Not enough to fail a mission, but enough of an annoyance that I lose 10-15 minutes cleaning up a mess I had no idea would be coming.

It’s a bit like an SDLC. Plan, design, test, build. The design/testing part is best done in creative mode.

    Naithin · June 4, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I think the difference in scope of ‘creative modes’ is an interesting point too. Some disable the full range of rules, whereas others — like JP it sounds like — for most intents and purposes leaves the ‘rules’ and interactions between them intact, but lifts your otherwise constraining elements like income/resources.

    In the latter case, I could certainly see the plan, design, test, build aspects coming to the fore. Cities: Skylines adopts this style too.

    Then as you move up the spectrum toward disabling the rules, you can do less of this. Not none, and which aspects get dropped might vary from the implementation. But less.

Jeromai · June 4, 2020 at 4:17 am

What can I say but “ditto?” I picked up a bit of Creative Mode snobbery in adulthood too, and usually prefer to play games on the normal/average/as intended difficulty to get the developer-intended experience. (Though I’m not above tweaking down to easy mode if that’s set at a level beyond me.)

I just started using Minecraft Creative Mode as a way to quickly prototype builds for another voxel building game, and it has suddenly illustrated some of the potential uses of such modes.

It’s odd. I wasn’t as much of a snob a few decades earlier. God mode and cheats were very much a thing in those days. Maxis and their SimWhatever set of games made it crystal clear in their manuals that their stuff was intended not as a game -game-, limited by rules and “winnable”, but as a game -toy-, to be explored, manipulated, experimented, tinkered with and even abused, if you wanted. Somewhere between now and then, we got all stodgy about our games.

    Naithin · June 4, 2020 at 9:41 am


    I didn’t end up including in the post, but I do remember a time in my youth when I was all about the cheat codes. I saw the end bosses of the Doom games waaaaaay before I so much as navigated my way there, let alone did so without the benefit of god mode or at least giving myself all weapons.

    There certainly came a point where I turned the corner and wanted to do this stuff not only without cheats but by pushing difficulties right up there as well. But even then I still thought of the cheat codes and other with some degree of fondness. I don’t really know when I turned the corner from there to thumbing my nose at the very idea of using them.

Rakuno · June 4, 2020 at 11:58 am

I personally love Creative Modes. I think of them as kind of like painting. You don’t do it for the bragging rights (although I suppose there are some “artists” there who do that. :p) but rather for expressing yourself. It is kinda why I like decoration in games. It allows me to build cool spaces that I could never do in real life. Not only because of physical real life limitations but because I don’t trust myself with that kind of endeavor and mistakes costs a lot more in real life in terms of money and time. :p

    Naithin · June 4, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    Haha, definitely agree it is cheaper to experiment / decorate in a creative mode than in RL. xD

    I wouldn’t yet say I ‘love’ creative modes. I’m still not even sure I want to use them myself yet. But certainly more understanding of the value in them and hopefully that little bit less judgemental of the desire to ‘play’ almost exclusively in them.

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