Layout Vs. Plan Navigation in Real and Virtual
Ă–mer Kirazoglu 2018 Professor: Johan Bettum Architecture and Aesthetic Practice Staedelschule Architectural Class
Layout Vs. Plan Navigation in Real and Virtual Abstract In the history of city planning and designing complex circulations of a building in architecture the classical idea on organizing how people move through space was using a top down view which is using the plan, which is mostly the horizontal flow, today in video game design is using the same medium to establish player movement in the virtual game environment. In this writing I am going to bring out how similar is the video game movement layout to the classical idea of space design and making. After that I aim to investigate what are the invented techniques using the digital medium also how virtual reality games is changing those ideas or if the new medium can be used to organize spaces differently, and then is it possible to bring back those specific techniques to use them in real life situations.
Introduction The first urban planning layout which is the â€œHippodamian Planâ€? (a grid plan) was taken from the Greek philosopher and architect Hippodamus (5th century BC) who was the first urban planner to according to Aristotle whom also called him "the father of city planning"1.
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fig. 1 Pireus City Map (Wagner & Debes, 1908)
The flat drawing medium of plan/layout was the ultimate solution as it is also called God view it was the most conventional idea since the ancient Greek to formulate the space of a city or a big building in order to control human navigation and movement inside, outside and between solids, creating paths, open spaces and the remaining natural areas. And it is still used until today due to lack of a better representation in terms of flattening, understanding and controlling the total of voids of an urban land. And the design of an urban or navigation setting inside a video game is no different then copying what was used in real urban and city planning. Only difference is that it is called “top down layout” or “world map”. “A key tool for analyzing urban form has been the figure-ground diagram – an early advocate of which was Colin Rowe. In Collage City, Rowe and Koetter (1979) described the ‘spatial predicament’ of the Modernist city as one of ‘objects’ and ‘texture’. Objects are sculptural buildings standing freely in space, while texture is the background matrix of built form defining space. Rather than privileging the positive space or the positive building, they recognized situations where one or the other would be appropriate and that the situation to be hoped for would be ‘... one in which both buildings and spaces exist in an equality of sustained debate. A debate in which victory consists in each component emerging undefeated’.”2 (Rowe and Koetter, 1979) The plan/layout fundamentally used as design tool and it clarifies the distinction between solids and voids or the accessible and inaccessible. It also shows whites the voids are paths, thresholds, open spaces or closed private areas or sometimes the voids are inaccessible in case of water as an example.
fig. 2 The Legend of Zelda World Map (Nintendo) LAYOUT VS PLAN
The plan is the generator The idea of using the plan medium in generating how forms are organized horizontally and the circulation from the modern architecture and planning was too dominant it even being taught in video game design as 'top down layout' but still uses the same process of defining the pathway flow from plan view, even for medieval setting virtual cities which in reality was designed irregularly according to the topography and need of adding a building one after another and by rule of thumb opposite to the dictated latter idea of renaissance. “The gameplay map is the closest comparison we can make to classical compositions. Look at the painting by Rubens on this page where the composition features a network of two-dimensional paths for the viewer’s eye to follow. This is what the gameplay map does for the game player. But a gameplay map also represents the potential routes the players can experience in threedimensional space when they take control of a character. The way you shape the paths—whether with curved, straight, or angled lines—will greatly influence the emotions players experience as they move through the environment.”3 (Solarski, 2014)
fig. 2 Giambattista Nolli’s Map of Rome (1748) LAYOUT VS PLAN
But in games, "buildings" or solids to be precise is used mostly not for occupation but to navigate around them like in Nolli plan, in this sense in can get away from the classical idea of planning inside and connecting to outside, so mostly it is either in or out, the threshold mostly blurs or loses meaning with aid of loading screen or the cutscenes in most cases. In recent times with powerful real-time processors it was possible to render inside and outside flawlessly but still most doors are not meant to be accessed not only because you should’t but most interiors are not part of the narrative so they are not being designed. Which reminds me the Heideggerian idea of whatever you aren’t aware of that moment are not there only when realized it becomes visual. “I want to call those cities which have arisen more or less spontaneously over many, many years natural cities. And I shall call those cities and parts of cities which have been deliberately created by designers and planners artificial cities. Siena, Liverpool, Kyoto, Manhattan are examples of natural cities. Levittown, Chandigarh and the British New Towns are examples of artificial cities.” 4 (Alexander, 2015)
fig. 3 The Withcer 3 - Novigrad Map (CD Projekt RED, 2015)
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The idea of developing a plan for a natural city for a video game becomes interesting here because now the designer doesn’t follow what was used in real life situations of designing an urban plan; using a grid plan to generate the city, so one can’t be sure to what point it can be called artificial when it replicates the natural setting of growth of the city. Meanwhile the use the grid space for doing that makes it awkward a mix of new technique and old style in order to achieve the same result. In the end whether it was intended to be applied and constructed or not, the city map development always has to have same effort and thoughts embedded in it at least to make it work in terms of circulation and navigation.
Here I also want to touch upon the topic of freedom in generating the final built city to compare between virtual and real environments, so in a real plan when one mistake about a natural setting is discovered in plan it leads to the change of the plan in a way to adapt the irremovable, so it is always bound to topography, weather conditions, soil quality, social, economical and political limitations which are non-negligible aspects. In virtual world what bounds the designers is the limitations that they set if there is any they make it look like if it is bound to topology but who decided the land to be that way in the beginning? So their decisions, their rules defined what is being designed, there is a major freedom factor difference between both situations. “The Plan is the generator. Without a plan, you have lack of order, and willfulness. The Plan holds in itself the essence of sensation. The great problems of to-morrow, dictated by collective necessities, put the question of "plan" in a new form. Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and for the city.”5 (Le Cosbusier, 2008) “The Modernist conception of architectural space—Cartesian, universal, and continuous—gave way during those two decades to a static and finite conception, which was sometimes also specific to site and region. This nonModernist or Postmodernist (even anti-Modernist) conception was a more hierarchical and classical representation of the world.”6 (Kelbaught, 2002) In any video game design handbook the tool for designing the map is always the top down layout whether the game setting was medieval times, science fiction or contemporary, the rational solution of flattening the circulation made the control of the space a lot easier since it is unlikely for any designer to ask for unintended or inaccessible space for the player but what gets interesting here is what comes after on how you are using the space, do you just walk or fly or drive through or crawl so the narrative and the game need here is the most important factor on how to proceed through the virtual space and after that is the objectives and obstacles. Here, with the embedded abilities and capabilities for the player change the experience of the space totally so the tools are old but experiences are new in the virtual space.
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The History Precedent After the French city Saint-Die burned to the ground in the second World War it became suitable for a new planning opportunity. Le Corbusier drew plans with radical modernist ideas where he ignores the historical precedent which can be considered suitable for a destructed city instead of the reconstruction of the old, but mostly due to the historical precedent it got rejected and not built (Jacques Andre’s plan was built instead), so here is an example of how we are afraid of destroying the memory of an old space and start to apply modern city plans or how we value the history precedent and this even effects the virtual game environment on how it is mostly made referencing a history, recent or old instead of trying to build and develop for a new idea of the virtual city which would be closer to it’s nature. Considering that everything we make especially new is always from something that we already know from the past, which makes us unable to move toward a totally new environment; in an essay by Anthony Vidler he talks about a concept of the city as the site of a new typology, he states that “the city is considered as a whole, its past and present revealed in its physical structure. It is in itself and of itself a new typology. This typology is not built up out of separate elements, nor assembled out of objects classified according to use, social ideology, or technical characteristics: it stands complete and ready to be de-composed into fragments.” When we try to apply this ideology into the virtual city it can be thought as the the new typology especially when he mentions the third meaning of these fragments and says: “the third, proposed by a re-composition of these fragments in a new context.”7 (Vidler, 1999) This idea of reassemble of fragments can further be thought of emerging the virtual city that takes the fragments of form and history and reassembles them back into the virtual environment forming a third typology. But in another way it is better not to forget that history for the virtual world never considered to be the most important, in an article written for the website Gamasutra.com, which is dedicated to all aspects of video game development, Bruce Shelley claimed that “realism and historical information are resources or props we use to add interest, story, and character to the problems we are posing
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for the player.That is not to say that realism and historic fact have no importance, they are just not the highest priority.â€?8 (Shelley, 2001) For instance in case of the futuristic environmental settings like the city in the video game Destiny which takes place about 700 years from now, the game buildings which are built on different planets by other "species" are totally accessible by players human-like characters because actually they were designed for players to access and not by the AI which is embedded to create their own environment.
fig. 4 Destiny - Entrance to the Citadel (Bungie, 2016)
fig. 5 Dirleton Castle (Martin Coventry, n.d.) LAYOUT VS PLAN
Collapse of Events Time and space are two inseparable factors of the real world are yet to be broken into separate aspects in the virtual environment, where the travel distance is not related directly to to time from there to speed. In the Image of the city Kevin Lynch states that: “The constant rebuilding of the city causes an allied problem: the adjustment of the image to external change. As our habitat becomes ever more fluid and shifting, it becomes critical to know how to maintain image continuity through these upheavals. How does an image adjust to change, and what are the limits within which this is possible? When is reality ignored or distorted to preserve the map? When does the image break down, and at what cost? How can this breakdown be avoided by physical continuities, or how can the formation of new images be facilitated, once breakdown has occurred? The construction of environmental images which are open-ended to change is a special problem: images which are tough and yet elastic in the face of the inevitable stresses.”9 (Lynch, 1960) One way to think about his questions is using virtual cities in video games as an alternative to the real image of the city, starting with the Fast Travel concept. “Fast Travel is a concept typically found in games with large overworld maps that allows the player to instantly warp to a specific location instantly without having to take the time and effort to cross the environment.”10 (Giant Bomb) In most open world video games the concept of Fast Travel regardless of its name acts as a threshold between two separate spaces. With one click your body is to be transferred into the dedicated location you chose in order to access certain events instantly rather than traveling all the way from one place to another. Then the idea of space is totally collapsed, you can be anywhere anytime and repeat infinitely.
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Regarding the changes in how it is being used in different games, in article by Gaming Boom it explains; â€œThe specific mechanics of fast traveling, however, can vary greatly from game to game. For example, in Grand Theft Auto IV, the player must select a fast-travel location on the map, and then hail a cab to travel to the desired destination. As another example, in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the player calls a witch by ringing a bell, and then selects a previously accessed overworld save point where she can drop Link off.â€?11 (Giant Bomb) So the map is used as a threshold to access certain locations, the user interface in the game links the spaces into one total idea of space which is the map that Kevin Lynch was mentioning. From another perspective it can also be thought as a way to tell the narrative through a time frame in case of cinema for instance. The transition from a space to another in movies what is used is an aerial shot of the space than into the specific location where the event happens.
fig. 6 Grand Theft Auto V - Player Switch Animation (Rockstar Games)
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Mentioning cinema and transitions from here on it is inevitable not to compare it with Bernard Tschumi’s Manhattan Transcripts, as an architectural reference and it’s use of frames to visualize transitions between spaces. “The reality of its sequences does not lie in the accurate transposition of the outside world, but rather in the internal logic these sequences display. It attempts to play with the fragments of a given reality at the same time as the rational structure of abstract concepts, while constantly questioning the nature of architectural signs.”12 (Tschumi, 1995) The time and space distinction between two events allows us to organize our schedule in a time based series, thats why we use calendars in the first place, in the event of time breaks or upgrades in such a way that the loading screen is the time of transition the experience disappears with it in the classical games or with advanced methods the map becomes the total space where you zoom to access and embody and inhabit the space in it. Speaking of scaling and accessing the space from a bigger space it is fair to relate this to The Powers of Ten short movie where there is series of spaces are accessed though zooming in and out of one to another and every space has similar complexity in each scale. This can be thought as an idea for the threshold in virtual space.
fig. 7 Powers of Ten (Charles and Ray Eames) LAYOUT VS PLAN
Virtual Ruins Ruin value is a concept in architecture that a structure is designed in a way that in the event of collapse over time, it would still be aesthetically pleasing. We can clearly see this in Greek and Roman ruins despite the fact that this concept was first documented by the German architect Albert Speer.13 Considering that time is not a factor in virtual environment so what can be thought as the ruins there, is the residual of the environment in, other terms the space that is not intended for the player to access. Technically speaking every mesh has faces which are the surfaces we see, that are being visualized in the render software, and every face has a normal direction facing one way perpendicular to the face (surface), so when we try to look from the back side of the mesh in the software it looks invisible. The inaccessible areas of video games could be compared with ruins in terms of partial figuration and lack of use and their dystopian aesthetics. Finding glitches to get out of map limits and the idea of partial planning and using uninhabitable or in-between spaces in video games because there are no apprehension for rationalization nor the economical side of the space in total plan, which we can only encounter in post-modern architecture.
fig. 8 The Division - Glitching out (Ubisoft) LAYOUT VS PLAN
Self Generated Environments Using the computer’s ability to generate maps by the algorithm considered a smart move, using the medium’s ability in speculating the space with certain limitations of aesthetic and scale. Now it is possible easily for any designer to use the procedural map generation to quickly make an environmental ground for the game with specific logic but different experiences and spaces each time we play. After the release of 1980 fantasy computer game Rogue used randomness to keep the spaces fresh, presenting players with a different layout of dungeons, treasures and monsters every time they played. It even spawned the subgenera of Rouguelikes. When we look at the definition: “Procedurally generated maps are a core feature of roguelikes. For a genre that is almost synonymous with “randomness” (within reason), randomized maps are the easiest way to broadly manifest that key element since maps affect many aspects of gameplay from exploration strategy and tactical positioning to item and enemy locations.”14 (Kyzrati, 2014) The idea of having infinite replay-ability by getting different challenges each time played, it is made that even for the designer the layout is almost fully unknown it encourages for further space explorations and development. One of the fewest idea of self generated world is the game Dwarf Fortress which is a roguelike subgenre of of role-playing video games, where you can control a dwarven outpost or an adventurer in a randomly generated, persistent world. The map, the story, the creatures even the music is generated by the algorithm. It can be thought as an “Heterotopia” where nothing repeats itself more than one time and also allows you to record historical events and change track if you wish so. Moving along into the methodology of self generative maps which is the topic for this part, there is a wide variety of methods for achieving that. Typically no one method is applicable for all purposes, thus most designers tweaking whatever they choose to fit the needs of their game.
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“BSP trees can be used to create some of the simplest and most immediately recognizable roguelike maps-rectangular rooms attached to one another by corridors. (fig. 9)
Tunneling algorithms dig corridors and rooms out of solid terrain, much as a real dungeon architect might. Except for the often useless or redundant pathways. (fig. 10)
Drunkard’s Walk, a highly randomized tunneling algorithm, is useful for creating cave-like environments with a mix of open and narrow areas. (fig. 11)
Cellular automata are great for digging natural-looking cave systems. Unlike other methods you have to find a way to ensure connectivity in a post-generation phase, since certain algorithms are likely to produce disconnected areas. (fig. 12) As you can see from the types listed above, what I’m really talking about here is procedural dungeon (underground) generation. Most roguelikes take place beneath the ground, which makes sense from a design standpoint.”15 (Kyzrati, 2014) To further explain this subgenre has turn-based gameplay, permanent death of the player-character and most interestingly tile-based graphics, which means it is a speculation on the grid based plans used in modernist urban planning.
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“Using procedural generation isn't simply about offloading the creative process onto an algorithm – the real challenge is that it requires developers to teach an algorithm the difference between good and bad game design.”16 (Baker, 2016) In the game No Man’s Sky by Hello Games, they took the idea of self generation further into forming planets, creatures of complex forms and environmental changes where it is not merely a pixel or voxel challange but the formal language, the aesthetics and the total idea of design is being controlled by the algorithm. Comparing it with the previous example I can conclude that for a complex tool of design in order to work in the beginning it needs to work on simple, continuous ideas first and then it opens up into new possibilities which we can see clearly in the architectural example of modernist ideas that are being converted into the post-modernist using pretty much the materials and tools of design. And in computer aided design it is slowly converting into the post computational era where the true potential of the medium starts.
fig. 13 No Man’s Sky (Hello Games)
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fig. 14 Ireland2066 - Made using Minecraft (Blockworks) Virtual Reality Environment as a Navigational Space Taking virtual reality as an example for producing spaces and forming environments we take a look at minecraft game, where the player sees himself inside the environment itself, building as you move through and inhabit space, a true metaphor for real life and how space design started in the first place, so when you design the city through by using the first person perspective somehow it is closer to what you would do in real. The designer himself goes on the field and gives the decisions and builds. The whole design process happens in one go. We can also realise that this was the method back when representation is not yet discovered, so the what was built was the representation itself without someone from a far (god view) making decisions, this idea emerges again where every process of design happens in the space. The game itself works in blocks idea so it is a dense voxelation of the space which you can replicate what you know from real or speculate spaces. â€œThe emphasis on and capability for real-time collaboration are also critical elements, James Delaney says. Online sharing is a hallmark of the millennial generation and reminiscent of current architectural tools such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), which allows designers, clients, and end users to exchange performance information to a much finer degree than ever before.â€? Funny enough one can imagine the game is being used in conventional way where the designers and clients get in the game, meet and make meetings there and discuss the design through the medium of the game. Then creepers attack and break the meetingâ€Ś
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Conclusion Even though video games mostly used direct references from history of understanding the spaces in creating environments it is still mostly ruled by the medium which is used in creating the virtual world which we might have a chance to develop our own algorithms or by tweaking the tools in hand or even by including the unwanted glitches in the game in order to get alternative results that are not bound directly by history or modern way of design, then we might apply what we get, back in real. One fact that wee ned to keep in mind that the virtual space is still follows the same idea of the previous representations while using the cartesian space as a base for visualization, so whether it is a self generated map with pixels that is using the two axes on the infinite grid or in the minecraft example the third axis too, we can conclude here it is not a new idea of space design but merely a speculation in an alternative setting and representation or medium. “Today games like Gran Turismo, The Getaway, or True Crime are based on realworld maps with high degrees of verisimilitude. So gaming’s use of reality is entirely different from Godard’s use of reality. It doesn’t have the same political import”17 (Galloway, 2010)
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We can think of the virtual environment as part of the gaming culture as something between fiction and reality, even though some try to use ultra realistic graphics and visuals it is actually lacks the politics and a lot of other embedded features in the real, so whatever we see in there they are merely another way of abstraction. Iâ€™m not telling it to reduce itâ€™s value in any sense but so that it can be thought as an alternative representation to all other medium specific representations that are currently being used for architectural representation. In urban planning one has to keep in mind the freedom of design how it is effecting and or giving possibilities towards using it only to earn more money and not to achieve a quality space for the living people which is never the case in a virtual environment that is about the experience and space itself and allows further growth of a city into evolving to less livable spaces. The time factor in real cities are the most interesting, one city having the most old look a decade ago can turn into futuristic city by new architecture and emerging skyscrapers makes almost unrecognizable as the city was before. Planning the navigational space requires a representation to plan and decide how the people will have access to the space between all the buildings, walls and other boundaries, similarly in interactive virtual mediums needs that for the players to have a connection to natural human gestures, each designed mostly according to need but most importantly how the medium allowed it to be designed.
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Figures: Figure 1: Wagner & Debes. Piraeus (Πειραιάς) City Map, 1908. Image, 1908. https:// www.discusmedia.com/maps/greek_cities_and_towns/4359/. Figure 2: "The Legend Of Zelda World Map". Ian-Albert.Com, 2018. http://ianalbert.com/games/legend_of_zelda_maps/zelda-overworld.png. Figure 3: CD Project RED. The Witcher 3 - Novigrad Map. Image, 2017. http:// witcher.wikia.com/wiki/File:Novigrad.png. Figure 4: Coventry, Martin. Dirleton Castle. Image. Accessed 31 May 2018. https:// www.thecastlesofscotland.co.uk/the-best-castles/magnificent-ruins/dirleton-castle/. Figure 5: Bungie. Entrance To The Citadel. Image, 2016. http://destiny.wikia.com/wiki/ File:TheCitadelEntrance.jpg. Figure 6: Rockstar Games. GTA V - Switching Characters Mid Game. Video, 2013. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcLiasyjZcM. Figure 7: Eames, Charles, and Ray Eames. Powers Of Ten. Image, 2017. https:// medium.com/@barryvacker/powers-of-ten-honoring-the-40th-anniversary-of-the-existentialmasterpiece-5c5affa46249. Figure 8: Ubisoft. The Division Glitches - How To Get To Central Park! (PATCHED). Video, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5ftSgH29tk#action=share. Figure 9, 10, 11, 12: Kyzrati. Procedural Map Generating Methods. Image, 2014. http:// www.gridsagegames.com/blog/2014/06/procedural-map-generation/. Figure 13: Hello Games. No Man's Sky. Image, 2016. https://shiftdelete.net/no-mans-skyiki-haftada-gozden-dustu-74743. Figure 14: Blockworks. Ireland2066. Image, 2016. https://www.blockworks.uk/ireland2066.
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Aristotle. Politics. South Bend: Infomotions, Inc., 2000.
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Solarski, Chris. Drawing Basics And Video Game Art. Johanneshov: MTM, 2014.
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Hays, K. Michael, and Anthony Vidler. Oppositions Reader. 1st ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Architectural P., 1999. 7
Shelley, Bruce. "Guidelines For Developing Successful Games". Gamasutra.Com, 2001. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131450/guidelines_for_developing_.php?page=3. 8
Lynch, Kevin. The Image Of The City. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960.
"Fast Travel (Concept) - Giant Bomb". Giant Bomb. Accessed 31 May 2018. https:// www.giantbomb.com/fast-travel/3015-676/. 10
"Fast Travel (Concept) - Giant Bomb". Giant Bomb. Accessed 31 May 2018. https:// www.giantbomb.com/fast-travel/3015-676/. 11
Tschumi, Bernard. Manhattan Transcripts. London: Academy Editions, 1995.
Petropoulos, Jonathan. Artists Under Hitler. Collaboration And Survival In Nazi Germany. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. 13
Kyzrati. "Procedural Map Generation - Cogmind / Grid Sage Games". Grid Sage Games, 2014. http://www.gridsagegames.com/blog/2014/06/procedural-map-generation/. 14
Kyzrati. "Procedural Map Generation - Cogmind / Grid Sage Games". Grid Sage Games, 2014. http://www.gridsagegames.com/blog/2014/06/procedural-map-generation/. 15
Baker, Chris. "'No Man's Sky': How Games Are Building Themselves". Rolling Stone, 2016. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/no-mans-sky-how-games-are-buildingthemselves-w433492. 16
Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis [u.a.]: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. 17
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My thesis paper that I wrote as my part of master education in Staedelschule Architectural Class.