Game Urbanist, Game Designer
With a PhD in urban planning and geography, a MSc in city and regional planning, an engineering diploma, and almost 15 years of experience in the gaming industry, I can help shape the urban environments, city designs, geographies, and mechanics and narratives 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 design interactive/playable cities from the ground up.
I am also available for talks, workshops, and lectures, as well as for
freelance and contract work as a game, narrative and level designer.
The Cities of Games
Every city and urban environment that appears in a game is either a game city or part of a game city.
A game 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 -- a quality city.
The digital cityscapes of gaming are made of bitmaps, textures, texts, sounds, and/or polygons. They do not 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 our suspension of disbelief. They have to adapt our expectations of urban centers and city life to exotic, historic or abstracted virtual cities, while also knowing when to subvert common knowledge, and when to ignore design's good practices in order to engineer specific feelings. They have to be clever, pithy illusions based on our understanding of existing, historical, and imaginary urbanism.
Game cities need to be legible, believable, and --crucially-- memorable, while always enabling, supporting and enhancing the gameplay, theme and narrative of each project.
What is Game Urbanism?
Game urbanism is the discipline that tackles, designs, and researches cities in games.
Cities in video (and analog) games are everywhere. From simple-yet-evocative 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 games.
And yet ancient, fantasy, contemporary, sci-fi, stylized, historical or cyberpunk cities are not always given the attention they need. Even when designers do get them right, they almost never take advantage of the immense storytelling, thematic, and game & level 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 and what sort of 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? A history? How can we show city life and project a strong and memorable urban image?
Those are the exact kinds of questions that I, as a game urbanist & designer, can answer (and expand on) according to your project's needs, before going on and creating 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. 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 city lacking spatial coherence, a supposed metropolis with a too obvious 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, memorable, and thus believable 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. Realizing, however, that cities are much more than the sum of their roads and buildings is crucial when it comes to crafting them. Cities are also their societies, functions, people, systems, climates, colours, styles, shops, topographies, local beliefs, collective and pesonal histories, 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 -- along with many sketches -- to districts modeled in 3D (or 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 a fertile environment packed 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.
People I Have Worked With:
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.