updated 12/28/2010 1:16:20 PM ET 2010-12-28T18:16:20

With about 68 million players worldwide, "CityVille" blends the best of "Sim City" and "FarmVille" into a Zynga Facebook game that actually plays like a game.

Kotaku went straight to Zynga's CityVille team for some tips and tricks on how to turn your one-horse town into a bustling metropolis.

I spent a few days tinkering with the game and quickly realized that "CityVille" isn't just about timely clicks and gathering friends, this is a communal experience that requires a bit of city planning, strategy and tactics.

Since building my first home in Kotakuville, the tiny town has turned into a small town, soon it may even be a medium town. But I know if I want to turn it into the sort of cityscape of high rises, monuments and parks that you see in the real world, I'm going to need some help.

Fortunately, Zynga has my back, and yours too.

The Basics
Understanding the three main attributes of CityVille

In order to build a successful city you will need to balance three attributes: coins, goods, and population. Coins are the main currency in the game; businesses cannot run without goods, and in order to grow your population you will need to keep your citizens happy.

Coins – There are two main sources of coins: rent from housing, and income from business; businesses are more profitable than housing. Your city will need a good balance of both, since with a low population your businesses will not sell very quickly and if you only have a few businesses and high population they may sell out faster than you can supply them.

Goods – There are three main ways to get goods: by growing crops, via shipping, and by sending trains to your neighbors' cities; each has its own advantages and disadvantages, which will be covered in more detail in the intermediate section of this guide. Please also keep in mind that goods need storage, once you're out of room you will either have to buy more storage buildings or use some of your goods.

Population – A city will not get far without citizens and in order for you to keep your city growing you will need community buildings to keep your citizens happy.

Maximizing potential

Coins – As we mentioned earlier there are two main sources, but there is also a way to optimize those sources by using decoration, which add a payout bonus. You will actually profit more by having less business so that you can leave room to add decorations. For example, you can set up three coffee shops side by side; each will give you 320 coins every time you collect, for a combined income of 960.

Or you could set up two coffee shops and place decorations that will give them each a payout bonus of +60 percent, and give you a combined income of 1024.

This may not seem very significant at first, but when you factor in purchasing one less coffee shop, as well as using fewer goods, and less energy to use two coffee shops instead of three, it adds up pretty quickly.

One great thing about decorations is that you don't even have to spend your own coins on many of them; there is a great variety of decorations that your friends can send you from the free gifts page! Make sure to help your friends and send one back!

Goods – In order to restock your businesses you will need goods, and as we mentioned in the basics section there are three main sources of goods; in order to have a successful city you will need to understand the advantages and the disadvantages of all three.

1. Crops can be purchased from the build menu as soon as you start the game (though some have a higher level requirement).

Advantages: Available at the start of the game, best goods/coins ratio.

Disadvantages: Worst goods/hour ratio, requires a lot of land space, crops wither (except for strawberries), requires energy for harvesting.

2. Shipping is not available at the start of the game and requires the completion of several goals before it can be unlocked.

Advantages: Does not require much of the valuable land space you could use for buildings/decorations, average goods/coins and goods/hour ratios; increases storage capacity.

Disadvantages: Not available at the start of the game and requires a series of goals to be unlocked, requires the placement of piers near water, goods spoil (except for "San Francisco"), requires energy for unloading.

3. Trains also have requirements before they can be unlocked, but unlike shipping or crop does not require energy, land space, or any further construction.

Advantages: Does not require extra land space or further construction; does not require energy, best goods/hour ratio, does not wither; does not require energy.

Disadvantages: Can only send 1 train at a time, worst goods/coins ratio.

In summary, crops are the best (and the only main) source of goods at the start of the game, shipping is a good replacement for crops as you advance further, and trains are a good supplemental source for goods once you have a good income.

Population – A city cannot exist without citizens, and citizens need community buildings to make them happy. Community buildings increase the total population your city can support, once you reach your limit you will need to build more community buildings before you can build any more housing.

*Tip 1: You can have more than one of each type of community building.

*Tip 2: You can collect a daily bonus from your community buildings.

Collections – Don't forget to turn these in! Many of them will give you additional xp, energy, and goods; as well as unique items that cannot be obtained any other way!

Expansions – At some point businesses, housing, community building, crops, storage units, and decorations will start adding up and you will have to expand if you want your city to keep growing. In order to expand you will need two things: coins and permits.

Expansions come in the form of a 12 x 12 square that you can place anywhere adjacent to your city's boundaries.

Franchises – "CityVille" has a unique feature that allows you to add permanent additions to your neighbors' cities by expanding your existing businesses. You can do this by first building the desired business in your city and then visiting a neighbor's city with an available empty lot.

You can expand any of your existing businesses, but you must reach certain levels in order to increase the maximum number of franchises you can own. One great part about franchises are the franchise Headquarters.

Every time you expand your franchise your HQ will gain a floor until it reaches its maximum height. Remember how we talked about payout bonuses? Well franchise Headquarters aren't just great looking skyscrapers, they're actually one of the best objects to have around your businesses; the combined bonuses of the 3 HQs and decorations are giving that cinema a +100% payout bonus! And 2 of them have not yet reached their maximum height. By carefully planning the placement of your HQs you can maximize the profit from all nearby businesses.

Helping your neighbors helps you

Goods – Recall how we mentioned that the previously discussed sources of goods are the three main sources? Well there are more. One of the best additional sources is your neighbors. Every time you harvest your neighbors' crops you gain 25 goods; in addition, you also gain reputation points and every time your reputation level increases you gain bonus goods appropriate for that level.

Neighbor visits bonuses – One other way visiting your neighbors helps you is that you gain a bonus once per day from each neighbor up to your reputation level (another reason to raise that level); the bonus consists of energy, xp, and coins.

Franchises – Not only do you benefit by expanding your franchises to your neighbors' cities, but you also benefit from letting your neighbors expand their franchises to yours. By doing so you gain a free business, and a daily bonus of good, coins, and energy, as long as your neighbor supplies it daily.

Balance the main attributes and franchise! Take advantage of every feature and help your neighbors. Use these tips to build the city of your dreams!

Start playing now on Facebook or CityVille's website. You can also find more help over at the official community forums.

Now that you've mastered CityVille check out our detailedFarmVille Guide.

For more from Kotaku, check out:
What Is CityVille, Other Than The Next FarmVille?
The Biggest Game Of The Year May Well Be...
How One Developer Cheated His Way To The Perfect Smurf Village and Why

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