Avid gamers and casual observers alike have probably heard of The Sims, a life simulation video game and one of Electronic Arts' (EA) most popular franchises. The Sims, which has undergone multiple iterations and expanded its virtual universe many times over the past decade, allows players to dream and control elaborate stories for their Sims. This "virtual dollhouse," as The Sims creator Will Wright describes, also lends players the ability to endlessly customize and construct their own houses and cities for their Sims–a feature that has allowed many gamers to interact more closely with the real world of architecture.
Video Games: The Latest Architecture and News
Last week, the City of Arlington, Texas announced plans to collaborate with Populous in transforming the city’s convention center into North America’s first Esports Stadium. This 100,000-square-foot venue will be designed to draw in both competitive players and fans from around the world, and create the most immersive experience in the live esports market.
Love architectural video games like Minecraft or SimCity? Then it's worth checking out this ecological city simulator, Block'hood, which allows players to build their own arcology-style structures for humans and other species to coexist, all while managing a range of environmental and engineering conditions.
Following our review of the beta version of the game last March, the final edition has now launched on gaming platform Steam. New features include a 5-episode guided story mode, an increased maximum building size, an unlockable "unconstrained" mode, and compatibility in 8 different languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Russian.
If you’ve heard of Second Life, the 2000s-era web-based online world with millions of loyal “residents” who populated it with personal avatars, you’re likely to think it has become irrelevant or obsolete. But at the peak of its popularity, the site received a lot of attention for providing users with a potentially dangerous escape from reality—one so powerful that it was not unheard of to leave real jobs, friends, and families for those found within the site.
Second Life is the ultimate democratizer in space making. The vast web of locations in the site's virtual world, called sims, are almost completely user-generated. For as little as $75 a month, anyone with an internet connection and basic CAD skills can create, upload, and maintain whatever place they dream up. Sure, sometimes this “great equalizer” spits out such venues as SeDucTions and Sinners Burlesque, but more often than not, builders have responded to the complex opportunities and challenges presented by their unique situation with innovative design solutions.
One place to observe this is in the site’s many spiritual sims, in which religious architecture often responds to the displacement of religious authority in the digital world, since a lack of official (sanctioned) ties to tradition offers a designer more agency than in the real world. Read on to discover four cases that carve out a space for spirituality in Second Life and reveal some of what works—and doesn’t—in today's virtual sacred architecture.
Looking for a challenging new diversion that will keep your architectural mind humming? A new puzzle game from developers Dusty Road, Empty, may just fit the bill.
In New York City, as in many cities worldwide, residents rely on the subway system to get around. But despite its importance, there are still plenty of locations throughout the city so difficult to get to, it’ll leave you cursing, “Who designed this thing anyway!?”
Now thanks to a new game from engineer Jason Wright, you have a chance to correct the design flaws of the current system – virtually, anyway.
This article was originally published on Autodesk's Redshift publication as "A Video Game Is Overtaking Post-Occupancy Evaluation in Architecture."
Evaluating the user performance of a particular building design is obviously a good way for clients and architects to gauge whether their design was successful—or could have been better.
There’s even an entire academic discipline called post-occupancy evaluation (POE) devoted to this concept, and Arup is tapping into it with a network of 22 industry partners using the Building Use Studies (BUS) methodology. Too few designers tap into POE, but with gamified simulations done before projects are built, that could change.
In this new collaboration, originally titled "Architecture for the system and systems for architecture," Spanish architect and cofounder of the blog MetaSpace, Manuel Saga, reflects on the experience of developing (and taking on) a game where architecture plays a key role for the designer, and for the player. The case studies? No less than four major titles of our times: Starcraft, Age of Empires, Diablo and Dungeon of the Endless.
On MetaSpace we have introduced a general overview of the challenges that video game designers face when creating buildings, cities and even maps. This time we will go one step further: what happens when a game doesn’t offer a narrative or a fixed, open map, but rather an architectural system that the player can take control of? How does a design team respond to something like that?
Let's take a look.
More than 6 million courses have been created for Super Mario Maker, a video game where players can create their own game levels with all of the available tools of the Mario universe. The plumber, who has entertained millions of people around the world with his adventures, turned 30 last September, the date of the release of his first solo odyssey, Super Mario Bros. The rest, as we know, is history.
A few months ago, for the premiere of Super Mario Maker at the last Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2015), Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, the creators of Super Mario Bros, explained how they designed the levels of the classic Nintendo video game in 1985: on graph paper.
That's right, using graph paper and tracing paper, the Japanese artists drew each level in detail, adding and editing the position of enemies, traps, and even designing the game's cover art.
It is said that the best design solutions are often found when a project comes with a very strict set of parameters. So it makes sense that architectural games, with their coded restrictions and rigid rulesets, tend to draw out a particular kind of creative problem solving. Recently, games like SimCity and Cities: Skylines have inspired designers to experiment with constructing virtual cities without the fear of causing real-life consequences. In turn, these creations have inspired new perspectives on real-world designs.
The newest entrant to the world of architectural gaming is Block’hood, a neighborhood-building simulator that challenges the user to create a functioning community out of 1x1x1 blocks of various program. The interface features bold, stirring graphics from an axonometric view and effects that cycle between day and night. Block’hood taps into the simple desire to play with blocks, and then ups the ante by making the blocks’ existence vulnerable to the environmental conditions you create.
In this new collaboration, originally titled Cartografías del Metaverso (Cartography in the Metaverse), Spanish architects and founders of the blog MetaSpace, Enrique Parra and Manuel Saga, explore the potential of mapping in video games. Mapping can sometimes go beyond the mere role of orientation, as in the Diablo sequel, and become a very important element of the game, as in Civilization and World of Warcraft.
The cartographic and planimetric language of architecture is also common to the world of video games. Many video games base much of their experience on interaction with one or more maps, through which users orient themselves to find out where they are and where they are supposed to be.
One example is the Civilization saga, a series of empire management games created from 1991 to date. All versions are played on a map, a geographical view of the world that represents different areas, available resources, geopolitical balance, and other factors. These variants are the rules of the game, the situation the player faces; the map becomes a dynamic fabric, ie, the interface that makes up the game.
For many architects, an obsession with design came at a very young age - often, an architectural career begins with toys such as wooden blocks or that old classic, LEGO. In recent years though, a new contender has emerged to inspire young architectural minds: Minecraft. In this article, originally published on Autodesk's Redshift publication as "Minecraft Architecture: What Architects Can Learn From a Video Game," Kim A O'Connell looks into the growing influence of Minecraft in architectural design and education, including the growing presence of the global "Blockworks" team.
Since it burst onto the gaming scene in 2009, Minecraft has become one of the world’s most popular video games—so much so that Microsoft bought the game and its parent company for a whopping $2.5 billion in 2014.
Today, the world-building platform has also garnered the attention of architects and designers. Could a video game actually change the way architecture is taught and practiced?
In the following article, originally published in Spanish on MetaSpace as "Assassin's Creed 2 - Arquitectos que hacen videojuegos"(Architects Who Make Video Games), Spanish architect Manuel Saga interviews María Elisa Navarro, a Professor of Architectural History and Theory, who worked with Ubisoft Montreal as a historical consultant on the design team for the video game Assassin's Creed II, from the first rough drafts up to its launch in November of 2009.
While getting her PhD at McGill, María Elisa Navarro was a consultant for the entire development process of the game as part of a research project between the university and Ubisoft Montreal. She worked on the project in complete secrecy with "a small team of 20 people and then later more than 400 in a huge basement in Montreal." Navarro worked on everything from late 15th century wardrobes to the correction of architectural errors in the recreated cities, going over the look and ornamental details of the buildings.
"Sometimes, for gameplay purposes, they needed to have walls with a lot of texture so that Ezio could climb them, but when the time came to lay those parts out, there were some inaccuracies. For example, I remember a balcony with a wrought iron railing that couldn't have existed in that time period. I was responsible for detecting those issues," Navarro noted in her conversation with MetaSpace.
Read the full interview with Navarro after the break.
With the ability to manipulate every interaction players have in a game, video game designers have boundless opportunity to shape the way players experience space. Because of this, game designers often look to architecture to enhance gameplay and provide inspiration for the appearances of their virtual worlds.
In the video above, Jamin Warren of YouTube show PBS Game/Show calls Halo the “most creative architectural game,” remarking that the brutalist-inspired architecture of the series exerted a strong influence on the way players move through levels and makes the battles in the game more immersive. Warren notes that several members of Halo’s development team had backgrounds in architecture; this observation suggests that the video gaming industry views architectural design as an essential element in its creative endeavors.
Warren makes an interesting point with his remarks on Halo: while people that inhabit virtual buildings cannot experience them physically, video game buildings can still be incredibly innovative and interesting. Which other video games feature innovative architectural approaches? Check out our list of six of the most architectural video games after the break.
Ask a random person in the street about their favorite hobbies, and it’s unlikely that they’ll say “urban planning and traffic management” - yet when video games began to take off in the late 1980s city-building was one of the first breakout hits, in the form of Maxis’ SimCity series. The huge success of the “Sim” series in general drove conversations about the value of simulation, as part of the general 1990s optimism about virtual worlds being the future. Sim games became the subject of academic critiques of their philosophy of the world, while city builders became a lot more than a game: in 2002, SimCity 3000 was used as a semi-serious test for mayoral candidates in Warsaw.
After a slump caused by a difficult transition to 3D graphics, city builders are back in vogue. Following what is widely considered as a disappointing SimCity reboot in 2013, Finland’s Colossal Order recently released Cities: Skylines to critical and financial success. But simulations require assumptions; they are, after all, written by people who have their own conscious and unconscious views on how and why cities work. The limitations around designing a video game - the fact that each asset must be modeled and textured, and that each transport option requires a huge amount of work to simulate - mean that Cities: Skylines is as stripped down and streamlined an articulation of urban philosophy as Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse or the New Urbanists' models, and just as interesting. We investigate 10 things this game tells us about 21st century urbanism, after the break.