Screenshot 2016-02-20 21.43.01

Now that the basic rules for visualizing the city as tiles work, next comes the actual urban planning.

Generative Proposals

For now, I’ve settled on using Molleindustria’s rules from MultipliCITY to create a basic scoring system for the AIs. The AI looks through all of the tiles and finds the ones where they would benefit the most from either developing on new land or using eminent domain to evict existing residents or businesses for a new development. If I add an extra property to the tiles, maybe ‘productivity’ or ‘maintenance’, I can better balance for eminent domain.

Before we generate a proposal, the system has already calculated how much each tile is worth to each group, the Real Estate Developers, Businesses, and Community Organizers. Next, the system generates a weighted random list of developments that will be proposed. By having this be random, I account for that though all the groups may want a school somewhere, only once a variety of factors (basically just funding) line up can a school be actually proposed on a lot. Next, the groups need to pick which developments they want to propose. Each group can only propose certain tiles. For instance, Real Estate Developers can’t propose where to put an industrial development, but they would be disappointed if it’s near residential development.

  • Real Estate: Real Estate, Service
  • Buisness: Commercial, Industrial, Infrastructure (all unique)
  • Community Organizers: Affordable Housing, Service

This means that perhaps services will be contested (with a contesting mechanic [hard!]) or each group will get a certain percentage of all service developments (easier).


For voting, I have a system where the player has a certain number of votes to spend on several proposals. Proposals either need points spent on them to pass or are already passing and you would need to spend points to fight them. I’m thinking of using a timer to force players to make quick decisions on whether each development is good or bad. The later the game goes, the more hectic it will get and though you’ll have more votes, you’ll have more proposals and have to make rash decisions.

Working on creating some models at HackNYU 2016. I’m using MagicaVoxel to make the models because it’s really easy to prototype cubed buildings that way.

Creating the terrain was surprisingly easy using Unity Terrain. NASA has several published heightmaps including for the Gale Crater, which I ended up using. Though Unity Terrain isn’t the prettiest on its own, Unity has really power LOD optimization for it and it works exceedingly well with Unity’s Navmesh system, which I use for controlling the robot.

After getting height data for the Gale Crater, I was playing around with lighting and decided to turn off both lighting from the sun and ambient lighting.

Next, to match the color of Mars, I relied on photographs from the NASA Curiosity Rover. Though Unity Procedural Skyboxes are designed with atmospheric effects designed to mimic the scientific results of atmospheric scattering, I couldn’t match the nearly sepia-toned skies of Mars. I ended up using Photoshop to create a cubemap of a simple gradient made from the color of Curiosity photographs.

Adding a faux dust-storm helped tremendously with creating a sense of place as the limits of designing for a mobile device meant that faraway details needed to be removed or minimized. I added a fog effect and reduced the draw distance to try and improve the framerates I was getting on some lower-powered hardware.

Lastly, to create more detail, I added boulders to block off pathways and make the cliffs sharper and more imposing.

concretejungleI recently some of the city building game Concrete Jungle. Wheras games like SimCity and Tropico are city simulations, Concrete Jungle is first and foremost a puzzle.

A game in Concrete Jungle opens with seeing a small section of a city already filled out, quickly moves the camera to focus on an empty field of land. To play, the player places buildings from their deck of cards displayed along the left. Each row of the city must meet or exceed the minimum score listed along the side. To earn points, the player first places a residential development. Developments don’t have any points on their own, but are improved (or degraded) by buildings around them like shops or parks. Once the player ears enough points in a row, they ‘clear’ that row, much like in Tetris. If they place buildings in such a way that it becomes impossible to clear that row, they can either leave that row to add up space on the board or to expend a life to forcibly clear it. There’s also a deck building mechanic and a difficulty ramp system, but the core of the game is a tile puzzle fueled by a deck.

I really like the use of randomness through the use of the deck and the ability to select from several possible cards, but the row-clearing mentality is unabashedly pro-expansion. You expand onwards forever (or until you meet the goal of the level). Though certainly a really interesting and quite fun take on the city building genre, I still want something a little more political.


One day when I was a junior in high school, I saw a board game that caught my eye at Get Your Game On, a games and cards shop a few bus stops from home. It’s name, The Game of Urban Renewal caught my eye just because of the name. I had heard of Urban Renewal from the name of the building editor to SimCity 2000. I only saw the game once there and didn’t ever end up playing it. Somehow freshman year at NYU I ended up finding out more about the game online and looking up the ruleset. It’s perhaps the most fascinating ruleset I’ve ever seen for a city building game and many other indie city games that don’t follow the SimCity formula of zoning and absolute control use some of the same ideas.


The Game of Urban Renewal (pdf) is a multiplayer city building game by artist Flavio Trevisan in 2011. Though one player is mayor, everyone else can be any number of roles from City Councilor to Resident of Existing Development to be Demolished to Skyscraper Enthusiast to Garbage Man. These roles, outside of Mayor and City Planning Employee, don’t seem to have any specific rules associated with them. The players instead role play as the different characters and try to make decisions based on that point of view. Unlike SimCity where the mayor can place anything anywhere at any time at all limited only by their imagination and funding, the city here is determined by Decision Engine Wheel, a wheel for choosing random actions similar to the wheel in the The Game of Life (Milton Bradley). Players take turns spinning the wheel and placing and stacking condominiums, commercial buildings, public housing, schools and parks. They might also land on the chance to pick up a planning directive card from a deck. Lastly, they could land on the chance to bulldoze as much (or as little) as they want, therby creating the cycle of urban renewal, hence the game’s name.

Like SimCityThe Game of Urban Renewal lacks any formal scoring, winning or loosing, or ending. Yet unlike SimCity, this game lacks engaging challenge and a dynamic environment. I assume that Flavio Trevisan’s intent behind this game was to draw attention to urban renewal in Regent Park, Toronto where a “Revitalization Project” was already well underway in 2011. In that way, the game was more statement than game. However, a more recent stab by Paolo Pedercini.


MultipliCITY is a game “antidote/response to SimCity” made for the Allied Media Conference in 2014. Pedercini has excellent presentation notes alongside the rules of the game. Unlike The Game of Urban RenewalMultipliCITY uses scoring to incentivise the different driving forces behind a city’s development from Real Estate, Commercial, to Community Organizers. Each group has a different scoring system to codify their different ideals. Like The Game of Urban Renewal, the game uses randomness to let players take turn placing buildings, yet lacks the unending renewal theme as the game ends when the stack of buildings to place runs out. The ideas Pedercini explored are really fascinating as they try to truly explore how a modern democratic city forms.

Screenshot 2016-02-09 14.21.58

Will Wright, arguably, popularized the “serious game” genre. While he was working on a map editor for Raid on Bungeling Bay he realized that he was more engaged by designing urban environments and cities than creating warzones and like fable, Will Wright created SimCity. The game/toy/sandbox/urban simulation made what was a fairly abstract task as simple as drawing roads and zoning a metropolis. Its accessibility is perhaps what was so powerful and made such an impact on society with SimCity acting as the entertaining gateway for many future architects, urban planners, and me.

This TED video, though primarily a 16 minute commercial for Wright’s last game Spore, introduces Wright’s exploration into turning advanced scientific concepts into toys. Notably for the games he’s worked on, he hasn’t been an expert in the field the game explores. The Sim games explore various fields as first toys then as almost academic explorations.

Though the TED video isn’t very good at conveying this, BBC Newshour (50min) has an excellent piece exploring modern problems cities of the present face. In it, they briefly mention a competitive match between NYU and MIT’s architecture schools in SimCity 2013. Where what you might expect a civil game where both schools try to craft the most effective city, the schools instead compete violently by using industrial air pollution and excessive crime to debilitate the other school’s city. Though funny, the fact that players saw this as the best strategy speaks to how multiplayer city building games have yet to be truly explored.

For my undergraduate senior project at NYU Tandon’s Integrated Digital Media program, I would like to explore city planning games through a lens that explores the less traveled topics in existing city planning and building games.

drive my little minions