I played the original SimCity when it came out and also had a copy of SimCity 2000. I tried SimCity 4 but found it quite complicated. After many years, I got as a birthday gift the SimCity 4 Deluxe box set that included the Rush Hour expansion pack. I decided to hunt around for a tutorial and discovered www.simtropolis.com. One of the City Journals on that site was Natural Growth by CSGdesign. It has now been removed from that site and can be found here. It still remains one of the best SimCity Journals around. The style of natural growth was different to the usual style of building that I played. Planning was done at the very local scale, except when highways were planned. Nothing was done without a pressing reason and there was very strong element of roleplay.
I was attracted to this style of gameplay. I tried it out a few times in small regions and settled on my own version of this type of "organic growth". I read up on various planning styles and I was caught by the notion of synoecism, where a number of villages combine to form one town.
Synoecism and other planning styles
Throughout the course of my city development I aim to show a few different planning styles, but my main approach will be organic with the emphasis on synoecism. I'll mention other planning styles here as I experiment with them.
The gameplay style
In synoecism there are several small nuclei. There could be an initial settlement, but it should split off into other villages so that these villages can combine at a later date. The interesting part of this is that the initial settlement may or may not end up becoming the heart of the main hub.
This approach can also be applied to the region as well. Other hubs (each with a number of small nuclei) can be started and be grown in the same way. Eventually the hubs themselves may join up if the natural growth dictates that it be so.
I feel that the style of play is still primarily natural growth, rather than self-funded. There is a roleplay element. Everything is done by considering what would happen naturally. There is not so much deity control. There has to be some, I feel, however. For example, a collection of small villages might be self sustaining for hundreds of years and they may experience no growth whatsoever. This is natural, but not that interesting, so an event (such as discovering ore) could be used to create some momentum within the scenario.
So, the style is not pure natural growth, but it approaches it often and everything is roleplayed.