1. Build factories to earn money
The primary way you'll increase your city's prosperity is through building factories and then assigning various contracts to them. There is a limit on how many factories you are able to have in your city depending on your population (more people = more factories). Each factory in turn is allowed to work on one contract at a time -- for example, you might have one factory producing prom dresses for twenty minutes and another churning out 'hit parade' CDs for a full twenty-four hours. Once the contract is completed, you'll have to come back to collect the profits (they expire after a period of time relative to how long it took to manufacture the product -- yup, just like you learned in Farmville and Cafe World), clean up the factory, then select a new contract to work on.
Pro tip: While you may personally want to build your city's economy solely around the manufacture of cute stuffed animals, it's good to vary what you are producing based on how often you'll be able to check back on its progress. Yes, that means sometimes accepting contracts for less-exciting pain pills and tires.
2. Build residential areas to increase your population
To increase your city's population, you need to build cottages, apartment complexes, hotels and more to 'generate' people. Like factory contracts, each building will produce a certain number of citizens in a certain length of time. Small cottages will produce only a handful of people but in a very short amount of time, while apartment complexes (which you'll have to wait to unlock at Level 17) generate one thousand people in twenty-four hours. When the building has finished producing people, you'll have to click on the house to add them to your population. It's not as creepy as it sounds, we promise!
Pro tip: Keep all residential houses on the same time cycle in a close grid area so you can quickly click through them to 'collect' new residents and then click through again to set them up for repopulation.
3. Build leisure buildings to increase your population cap
People need more than just factories and homes in a city -- the third type of building you'll acquire in Social City are 'leisure' buildings. These range from burger joints and schools to tennis courts and pizzerias. There is no 'timed' element to leisure buildings - once you've built them, they'll raise your population cap permanently (although you will need to click on them to 'clean' them up every once in a while). They don't generate money, but they're still an important part of your city that you'll need to invest money into in order to increase the number of people who can live there.
Pro tip: Some leisure buildings take up more space than others, like the 2x2 grid movie theater. If you're hurting for space to fit new factories and residential buildings, try getting a small but effective leisure spot like one-grid police station (why a police station adds 'happiness' to your city is beyond us, but we'll trust Playdom on this one).
4. Balance the Number of Each Building
4. Balance the Types of Buildings You Own
Factories, homes and leisure buildings rely on each other in order for your city to grow as a whole. Make sure you strike a good balance between them in order to quickly increase your city's population and economy. The cycle works like this: leisure buildings increase the population cap, residential buildings increase the factory cap, and factories generate the money needed to build leisure buildings.
Pro tip: Keep track of your population cap on the city information screen, and always keep your population limit well above the actual population so that you don't end up losing citizens.
5. Watch the Clock
Like other games where you have to wait for certain items to mature before you're able to collect the money and experience points they offer, being able to manage your time is key. Instead of just picking contracts that will earn you the most money or homes that will net you the most population, take a look at how long each will take. Buildings that generate a small number of people or small amount of money but do it quickly and cheaply may be worth investing in even if they don't seem like they're worth much. Just make sure you check back in time to 'harvest' the profit.
Pro tip: If you're sitting down for an hour-long session of Social City, choose contracts and set up residential buildings that can mature multiple times while you're actively playing. Most of the time you'll have a better return on your time/money this way. If you're leaving for work for the day, choose ones that will finish around the time you get home in the evening (same for night ones that will be ready when you wake up).
6. Play With Friends
As is the norm in Facebook games, having friends who also play Social City gives you a leg up on earning money. Here, you'll be able to visit your friends' cities once a day to earn a bit of cash by way of 'helping' them out -- stopping a crime wave, saving a kitten from a tree or even just filling up potholes to save motorists. It doesn't require you to be particularly engaged with your friends' cities (you either help them out or just go back to your city) but does encourage you to get a sense of how their cities are laid out and how far they've progressed.
Pro tip: If you're averse to mass-adding your friends and worried you'll end up spamming those who aren't actually playing Social City, hit the 'Games' tab on the left-side Facebook column, scroll to 'Social City' and click on the 'Friends' link next to the title of the game. You'll get a popup that tells you which friends have added the application (information that Playdom sneakily hides from you on the in-game 'Invite Friends' area).
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Have any other Social City tips we missed (or just looking for people to play the game with you?) Leave a post in the comments below!