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Video Game Cities Game designers have the opportunity to create cities and spaces that are meant to invoke different emotions than real-life models. These emotions can range from happy and carefree to oppressive and frightening. The different locations and storylines of a game determine how an environment will feel.

Development These cities are based on a specific path that the user must take to complete the goals of the game. Additionally, the design of the cities can be reduced to specific functions. For example, in most of these cities, there is no commercial district, no residential areas, no code, and no zoning. However, most of these games are designed to appear life-like and appear as if they contain all the above partitions.

Figure 1. artist conceptual rendering for the urban environment of Half-Life 2.

The design of these environments has a function that is unseen in reality: what I will call a “cause and effect� response. With this, moving into certain locations triggers actions within another area visible to the user. This creates a type of a picturesqu e environment created temporarily for the single viewing.

Figure 2. another conceptual rendering for the urban environment of Half-Life 2.

Most game development begins with a script no unlike a film. This script, when finalized, is then translated into conceptual renderings, then 3d computer models and renderings, then compiled into a gaming engine, the underlying software that allows the game to be played.

Figure 3. Image showing the contrast between the new and old architecture environment.

Figure 4. Conceptual rendering.

Figure 5. In-game shot of City 17.

Concept City 17 from Half-Life 2 was developed around the “historical development of many major European cities.� The designs were purposefully developed to clash the old with the new. To create the look of the environment, the designers began with a typical 19th century architecture, then added to it the 1930s, 40s and on through the 70s, and then added an alien touch to complete the look and feel of the game environment.

Figure 8. Conceptual rendering for City 17.

Also important to the design of the city was a central rail line. This rail is the main form of transport within and out of the city. The transportation infrastructure of the city includes highways and streets, tram lines, and a canal system, but all are useless because of the deterioration and degradation of the city.

Design Lighting within the computer environment has been used to create moods within specific settings. A sterile, artificial light is used to create an eerie feeling associated with a negative environment. A warm, autumnal light is used for most outdoor lighting and feels much safer than the previous. The design team worked from photos of Bulgaria, Russia, and Romania to create a truly Eastern European feel. Different aspects of the game are taken from different real-life locales. For example, the train station in Figure 8 has a distinctly Parisian feel to it.

Figure 6. Process of creating a game environment.

Figure 9. Conceptual rendering for the train station.

Figure 7. Creation of a path for the game to follow and reveal a story.

Figure 10. Conceptual rendering for a train stop within City 17.

Design Another goal of the design was the creation of a city from a skeletal framework. With this, the development of boulevards, avenues, streets, hidden spaces and courtyards came naturally and provide for a much more believable city. Game designers have the unique opportunity to design every detail of a city singlehandedly, and create triggered responses that do not (perhaps cannot) exist in reality. This advantage allows for them to create and develop unique environments that would not function in a real-life setting, but lets the user envelope in a sense of realism within the game. Figure 13. Photo of a small courtyard.

Figure 11. Screen shot of the interior of a building.

This design is most closely related to theme park designers, where a set path is given and riders are shown certain scenes/environments when they are in the correct proximity. These theme park designs rely on a great sense to materialize a concept into an emotion for the users of the ride, surprisingly similar to a game development.

Figure 14. Rendering of an interior/courtyard space similar to Fig. 12.

Figure 15. Photo of a corridor with artificial lighting.

Figure 12. Concept for a train stop outside of the developed City 17.

Figure 16. Rendering of a corridor similar to Fig. 14.

Figure 17. City 17, Trainstation Plaza. Designed with an “oppressive� mood.

Video Game Environments  

Looking to video games for urban planning

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