Game Urbanist & Designer
With a PhD in urban planning and geography, a MSc in city and regional planning, a 5-year engineering diploma, and over 10 years of experience in the gaming industry, I would love to help shape the urban environments, geographies, and rules of your game.
As a game urbanist and game designer I consult on matters of imaginary urbanism, build and plan virtual cities, fix civic mistakes, provide additional world-building or brand new settings, create maps, design living, breathing, immersive urban environments, help abstract existing places to fit any gaming project, create rules for simulations, and even design interactive/playable cities from the ground up.
I am also available for talks, workshops, and lectures, and
freelance and contract work as a game, narrative and level designer, writer, and translator.
A city that functions, looks, sounds, and behaves realistically, whether in the far reaches of the universe or deep within an enchanted forest, is a believable city; an immersive city.
The digital cityscapes of gaming are made of bitmaps, textures, texts and/or polygons. They do not really need to be sustainable or cater to the needs of actual societies. Reality's constrains do not apply to virtual cities, and yet the cities of gaming do have to evoke reality if they are to allow the suspension of disbelief. They have to follow the internal logic contemporary humans have learned to expect from urban centres, while also knowing when to subvert our expectations, and when to ignore design's good practices in order to engineer specific feelings. They have to be clever illusions based on our understanding of existing, historical, and imaginary urbanism.
Recent projects of mine: Lake by gamious, the Virtual Cities atlas, CityCraft column for Wireframe magazine, The Sinking City by Frogwares, A Place for the Unwilling by Alpixel, Ex Novo.
Cities are everywhere. From mere backgrounds in arcade offerings and intriguing maps in adventure games, to sprawling open worlds and stealthy RPG levels, urban environments are a major, and indeed varied, ingredient of the majority of video games.
Yet ancient, fantasy, contemporary, sci-fi, stylized, historical, and even cyberpunk cities are rarely given the attention they need and, even when designers do get them right, they almost never take advantage of the immense storytelling and game design opportunities a rich and realistic urban environment provides.
Then again, creating a city from scratch is admittedly a daunting and difficult task.
Where should one start from? How many streets would be enough? What should said streets be made of? How is the street network organized? Are there pavements? What about urban furniture or street art? What sorts of people and/or beings are usually seen roaming those streets during the day? During the night? Should every street have the same width? And how could I hide the short length of my in-game streets? Is there more to a city than streets?
What about architecture? Urban character? What do open and public spaces look like? Are there any? And where should one place a palace in relation to the dungeon and the factory district? How many inhabitants would a place require to feel right? Are there slums and wealthy districts? Where? How about rivers and hills? Infrastructure? Does the place need a functioning economy? How can we show city life and project a strong and memorable urban image?
Those are the exact kinds of urban questions I can answer for you according to your project's needs, and then go on and create your city's plans, simulation models, detailed descriptions of everyday life, or even the GIS mapping of your interactive regions, settlements, and urban centers.
What's more, I can help you avoid all the immersion-breaking urban aspects designers of game cities, and level designers usually get wrong or do poorly. Spotting and fixing all too common problems is an important part of my urban consulting work; problems such as a town not making sense on any real map, a supposed metropolis with a population of a mere 100 people, a central avenue feeling too short and empty, glaring omissions, atmosphere-damaging anachronisms, or even drop-in bars located in the middle of the urban wasteland.
Of course, troubleshooting is not enough to carry your project all the way towards the creation of a living, breathing, unique, and thus believable and exciting game city. A successful city, you see, has to feel real, and in order to feel real its complexities and major characteristics have to be understood. And analysed. And then toyed with. Dark alleys sporting deadly urban fauna must feel plausible, as even high-fantasy worlds need consistency. An urban fantasy environment that feels concrete will make the game it is supporting feel believable itself.
There are countless details that can make places breathe, and instantly help a city come to life, though realizing that cities are much more than the sum of their roads and buildings is crucial when it comes to crafting them. Cities are their societies, functions, people, systems, climates, colours, styles, shops, topographies, sounds, smells, public art, and an amazing variety of other things -- all these, I can help you discover, create, distill, and use.
My help on such matters of the city involves everything from the application of urban planning on level design -- and many sketches -- to districts modeled with Lego bricks and quite a bit of world building. It's crucial to keep the urban layer as something integral to the rest of the creative process. My work aims to further inspire game, level, and narrative designers (also developers and artists), and provide them with new ideas, mechanics, solutions, and tools. To offer a way towards building the illusion of a real place rather than that of a film-set.
Portfolio / Projects:
Urban consulting work for Frogwares' H.P. Lovecraft inspired open world horror game The Sinking City.
Assisting with the creation of the tools and rules that will allow the players of MMO Seed to create their very own cities and towns.
A pen-and-paper game casting 1-4 players as the genius loci that guides the evolution of settlement. Essentially a city building tool/game.
Get In Touch
If you are in need of assistance with your game's cities, would like to discuss any sort of urban interactive environment, or if you simply want to say hello, do not hesitate to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org.