Creating better cities

By on January 5, 2011 11:07:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Satrhan

Join Date 11/2008
+24

I'd like to show a few tiles I've been working on.

Short introduction; I really don't like how Elementals cities look and feel. On the one hand they can become way to large, covering huge parts of the map. And on the other hand when you look at them more closely, they don't really look like cities. There are hardly any houses, and buildings are just way to big IMO. I've been thinking about doing a mod for some time now, that would change how cities develop (and hopefully make them more interesting). A lot of the things I would like to do aren't possible right now, so I haven't really started.

But I have been playing with the tile editor the past few days, and created a few tiles that I'd like to show and maybe hear what you guys think. I'm not a very creative person or anything, so what I've done is mostly placing the buildings and some props that came with the game.

I'd like the housing tiles for each city level (outpost, hamlet, village, town, city) to have a different look, showing the town developing and becoming more densely populated.

Outpost houses http://img524.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294278612.jpg/

 

I first tried only big and small tents, but that looked to much like a festival. My second attempt was a lot better, a few permanent huts, and a small tent camp for people whose houses aren't build yet.

Hamlet houses http://img80.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294278643.jpg/

 

I quite like telling a story of how this neighborhood develops, so I started with the previous tile and expanded from there. The tents are gone, everyone is now living in huts. The house with the horse probably belongs to a merchant of some kind, and he is doing quite well for himself having build both a workshed and a small stable. The big hut below it is some kind of inn or pub.

Skipping over the village stage because I didn't have any inspiration and not enough suitable buildings. Would like to have more buildings with the wooden roof, but unfortunately there's only one such model.

Town houses http://img340.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294278688.jpg/

 

These buildings are still mostly wood. The merchant's business has grown, as has the inn. Again not a lot of building options (I wanted the slate roofs, not the tiles, saving those for the city), but I was able to turn the tree storey house into a two storey one.

Haven't done the city houses yet, as that one will require a bit more planning I think (needs to look good together with the city hub). I have done the first two stages of the 'palace', that will also develop along with your settlement.

Chief's house, goes with outpost http://img815.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294278778.jpg/

 

Yes it's small, but considering you're the lord of maybe a hundred people who are mostly living in huts and tents, so you shouldn't complain. The tile is very empty, wanted to add something but nothing felt right. Maybe a small military camp with a few tents?

Fort, goes with hamlet http://img529.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294278743.jpg/

 

Inspired by the early motte-and-bailey castles, and the original outpost tile. Note the blacksmith in the back. Next stage will be a keep, probably with a stone wall and some buildings surrounding it.

Below are some pictures with some of the tiles in game. First the hamlet with fort, works quite well I think. Ignore the way to big fence, trees, and buildings in the background obviously.

http://img713.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294277519.jpg/
http://img291.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294277448.jpg/

 

 

And four of the town housing blocks placed together, also not bad if I may say so myself. Just too bad that you can see the 'edges' between the dirt patches.

http://img801.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294277053.jpg/
http://img709.imageshack.us/i/elemental1294277086.jpg/

 

Edit: Can't seem to get the images working, figure it out tomorrow

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January 6, 2011 12:14:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Very nice!  For images to show here, I think you use the "Direct" url and paste it where you add images.  Good work on the tiles!

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January 6, 2011 12:32:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good work

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January 6, 2011 12:39:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This is great. The scaling houses is, in my mind, a but redundant with the hut/house/villa progression, but replacing the big single houses with smaller patches of housing produces a gorgeous and organic look, and properly conveys the proper size of a city.

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January 10, 2011 1:07:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the replies guys!

I've been a bit busy the past few days, so I've only been able to make one more tile, the keep I was talking about earlier. Some pictures;

Direct url seems to work, thanks ArcElement! From the other side you can see a small training area;

I'm quite pleased with the keep and the wall. The courtyard seems a bit empty though. I've placed a merchant showing his goods to some of the residents to fill it a little, but I'm not entirely satisfied. Any suggestions? A small annoyance; the different wall sections (short, medium, long) don't fit together, creating artifacts when you use them next to each other.

Another nice image, showing an approach towards a town with the keep in the background. Just imagine the big building to be nearby, and the rest of the town downhill.

Does anyone know how you fix the building elements on a certain height, regardless of the ground beneath it? See image below;the castle is build on a slight slope, making wall sections and windows not aligned right. I don't mind it as much for the houses, makes a town more believable if the houses aren't all on the same level although actors and small objects are often half buried.

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January 10, 2011 1:21:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like your mods. I don't have anything practical to add but I do like your results.

 

It would be nice if cities had more individual character - I often don't know what city I am looking at unless I look at the name and the greater region around it.

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January 10, 2011 1:27:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That's looking great.

here's a quote from another topic

- The actual buildings in a tile must use the setting below for height placement - fixed height (see screenshot). This is so that the building parts do not go out of sync due to tiny environment changes. Fences, trees, rocks and such things should NOT have fixed height (unless they are the building).

 

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January 10, 2011 3:06:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Your idea is really cool. I too kind of like/kind of dislike the way cities are put together now. The sprawl is great - it's a welcome change to the "single tile" style. But your right... they're kind of plain, and not always believeable.

I think maybe other buildings can be done that way too... making, for instance, research districts... or perhaps a building with an attached lot to mess around with things.

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January 10, 2011 3:39:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like what you're doing, keep it up!  Is there any way to put up variable styles for building types? For instance, when building a Library, the game could place one of 6 possible tiles down?  By the end of a game, if you've specialized, everything just looks the same like everyone has been saying. It might be a nice way to at least have some variety, then you could look down, and easily see which is a Tech city and which is an Arcane city, or whatever other possibility you might have.

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January 10, 2011 3:47:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Just wanted to say I really like how this is going, the cities look like they will be much better and could use the variety.  I actually see the game mods splitting into "high res / performance" and  "low res / performance" versions and stuff like this to help differentiate the factions.  You can only do so much to bridge the fact that some of us have 2 Gigs of RAM on our video cards and others have 2 gigs of RAM.

 

Send me a PM if / when you want help with XML to sub these in.  Nice work!

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January 11, 2011 6:02:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

ChungasRevenge, I wouldn't call this a mod yet, so far its just me trying some stuff   But I hope that by making different city levels more distinct from one another, it will be easier to recognise different towns, as long as they're not all the same level.

@Heavenfall, can't believe I missed those buttons Thanks!

@ShideKnight, I was thinking of doing something like that, by placing houses around buildings like for instance a library. That way they'll look more like they're part of the town. The challenge will be making sure that the buildings can be easily spotted but also not dominate the view unless intended.

@ brycex99, unfortunately that's not possible right now as far as I know, the game doesn't support that. I ran a quick test by adding two tile designs on a building, and as I suspected the game always picks the tile it read last. But it would be a nice feature!

@M. Agrippa; So far I've only copied basic buildings and gave them a new tile set (and made them cheaper and quicker to build) to see what they look like in game. If/when I start with the more advanced stuff and run into difficulties I'll ask, thanks About the performance part, I hadn't really considered that. I have a decent gaming laptop and have been able to run Elemental without much trouble. I don't notice any difference with these tiles, but I can imagine they could slow things down. Do you know of a way to track fps so I can do some tests? No real point in doing all this if it will make the game unplayable..

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January 12, 2011 12:29:30 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Just a disclaimer, I am not trying to set off a storm of "l33t rig" posts here.   You have to be careful, this is the internet.      

 

Unplayable is always going to be a relative matter; this game uses a lot of different resources and the scale can be huge.  If your models use 2x as many objects as standard, your playing with a lot of factions (some of which are using your "bigger" art), high level AI and a large map then they could cause slow down on machines at the bottom of the specs due to your stuff pushing the engine over the number of things it was designed to handle at that level of hardware resources (by 2).

If you have a machine at the upper end (ie decent gaming laptop) then you should be fine.  Someone trying to play it on their grandma's hand-me-down much less likely. If you have an older computer available you can use it to test the idea out.  I test art complexity as follows:

I keep Elemental installed on two machines, one my workstation, the other a VM running in my laptop(its a Mac).  Laptop only gets access to 2 GIG of RAM, is windows XP, but still has a SSD and hardware access to a hardware independent vid card.  This compares to 1gig of ram on a Nvidia 460, 8 Gig RAM, and Win 64.  They are different machines; just be aware not everyone might be able to run your results.

 

  For the record I think doing replacement versions of the building to spice up some of the different existing factions via passive(0 rule change) art mods would be a great thing. Speaking on behalf of those who will be able to view your glorious new buildings regardless, go nuts.

 

The high res versions of the Elven tiles from Expanded Factions would be a good place to start to check out what something know to push the limits is.  If you really wanted to test the issue for your machine right now.

 

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January 13, 2011 4:48:57 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You're welcome Satrhan, glad to help  .

By the way, that keep is awesome!  Very nice, it can pretty much be a city unto itself!  Imagine using those walls as the wallset... great job!

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January 18, 2011 6:56:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I ran some tests using fraps, to see how much framerate drops using these tiles. At the start of a game I get about 30 fps, and in a normal game this drops to around 25, and just over 20 when I change my camera angle to show very far into the distance. Now with my tiles the framerate drops into the 20-25 range as soon as I place the first one. Curiously enough though, framerate stays about the same no matter how many tiles I place. I completely filled towns with two different tiles.

Ok it's a little lower in these shots (fps in lower left corner), but depending on view angle and zoom level it hovers around in the 20-25 range. I made some nice shots in these towns btw:

Note the decent framerate in the first two, drops a bit in the last one but movement still seemed smooth. At first I thought Fraps wasn't accurate, but according to wikipedia a framerate of about 15 is required for displaying movement. Still I'm glad Elemental is a tbs and not a shooter

I'm still quite busy, but I have managed to do the tile for the outpost hub, and it's development stages. I'll show a few, links to the in between stages are provided.

http://img64.imageshack.us/i/elemental1295371587.jpg/
http://img191.imageshack.us/i/elemental1295371598.jpg/

http://img402.imageshack.us/i/elemental1295371624.jpg/

http://img403.imageshack.us/i/elemental1295371692.jpg/
http://img249.imageshack.us/i/elemental1295371705.jpg/
And the final tile:

Now for the record, if I ever turn this into a serious mod it won't be a 0-rule change one. I'm waiting on more details about the changes in Fallen Enchantress before I'll decide. But in the mean time I could try to see how playing with these tiles goes, without making any other changes. How would I go about doing that? I guess by adding improvements that have the same internal name as the original improvements, and that only have a <TileDesign> tag?

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January 18, 2011 7:17:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah, pretty much.

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January 24, 2011 12:26:50 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Beautiful work; leaving aside the problems around how disproportionately large (vs the world size) cities and structures are by default, you make cities look... like cities.  Great job!

 

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January 24, 2011 1:21:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I honestly hope the devs are paying attention to this great work.

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January 24, 2011 3:14:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting TheProgress,
I honestly hope the devs are paying attention to this great work.

Agree. Cities really look so much better with some sprawl and diversity.

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January 24, 2011 6:48:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Wow, those cities look really, really good.

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January 26, 2011 5:18:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the kind words guys

Been a bit busy again the past week, but as of yesterday I have some time to kill. And just as important, had some inspiration as well. After a few tries I came up with this tile, I'm thinking of using it as the L5 city core.

The central part is the palace, it's towers can be seen from far away. On the 'east' side there are a few villa's that probably belong to nobles and other high-up's, north are some houses for your mid-level dignitaries and their families, east some apartments for lower functionaries and bachelors.

I'm not satisfied with it yet. First of all, this tile could realy benifit from a custom decal for the ground, the default ones don't make it any prettier. Just too bad that I'm complete rubbish at actually making stuff like that. Secondly I'd like some stuff in the courtyard without making it seem cluttered, though maybe the decal would help with this as well.. And finally I'm thinking of placing a few houses outside the walls, to make it seem more part of the city. Any thoughts?

Next tiles I'm probably going to work on are the other city cores, and the three most spammed buildings; workshop, study, and arcane lab.

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January 26, 2011 6:32:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Maybe instead of houses outside the walls you could have other castle related things?  Training grounds, town crier, tax office, etc?

 

Looking really good!

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January 26, 2011 9:26:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well this tile isn't so much a castle as it is the heart of the city, province, and possibly the kingdom. This is a place of government, and though it is a defensible location in time of need, all the daily military activities like training and housing soldiers have been moved to the city barracks. But the town crier is a good idea! Added a stage for him to stand on, as well as have some ceremonies and/or executions.

Still not sure about the courtyard and the buildings outside the walls. I'll go work on another tile and look at it again later.

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January 27, 2011 12:19:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Looks very nice, although i have not played for a long while

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February 9, 2011 2:57:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hey guys, a small update. I did the tiles for a two buildings pretty quick after my last post, but I wanted to wait until I had more to show before I posted again. I haven't done much since then though, so I'll upload them now.

First off the arcane lab, I quite like this one as it is both simple yet recognisable. I made three stages, one for a small hamlet, one for a slightly bigger village, and one for towns/cities.


The second tile is for the workshop. Again I made three stages but unlike the arcane lab, the building I made for the smaller towns just didn't fit in a city. So I made a new structure that I think still has the right feel, but it is radically different from the other stages. Would this be a 'problem' for some people (if I ever release it as a mod that is)?


I tried making a study, but I had some trouble. I just couldn't find anything that had the right feel for small hamlets, but still looked good in towns and cities. Also the fact that they can upgrade into libraries doesn't help either.

On a more general level, I find that my enthusiasm for Ewom is at an all time low. I would like to continue working on this project, but as I'm doubting that ewom will ever be anything close to fun (for me) I'm not very motivated. Maybe FE will be more to my liking, but until we get some more information on it I can't tell.

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February 9, 2011 4:10:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great work Satrhan.  Maybe studies can start out as a Sage's tent or something, with robed figures hanging around talking.

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February 9, 2011 6:52:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Satrhan,
On a more general level, I find that my enthusiasm for Ewom is at an all time low. I would like to continue working on this project, but as I'm doubting that ewom will ever be anything close to fun (for me) I'm not very motivated. Maybe FE will be more to my liking, but until we get some more information on it I can't tell.

 

I know that I'm not the only one saddened by this - I've been looking forward to your finished work.  And I'm not usually a big mod guy (usually too much like work to seek out the adjustments I'd like, with too much chance of added instability).

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