View Full Version : City tile ideas

03-23-2011, 06:17 PM
I've been mulling city tile ideas. I did 4 city map tiles for Wayfinder 4 - here's an example:


It's pretty, but has some problems. The issues I have with it are:

The directional light means I can't rotate the tile and still have it look good.
The square shape and roads around the side mean that a city map will be very gridded
The buildings are relatively large, so it suggests a literal depiction of a city and you'd need a LOT of these to make a reasonably sized city

That led me to wonder if there was a way to get round these problems. I came up with a hex based sketch:

This has some upsides - and some downsides:

Non-directional lighting means it can be rotated
Hexagons mean that you get 6 tiles for the price of 1 with the rotations
A larger scale per hex means that you'd need fewer tiles for a city, and it doesn't look like it should be taken literally. It's more a sense of urban area than a house by house depiction
The larger area per hex makes it harder to show individual locations when you need a special area
Roads coming in on the middle of each side rather than following the sides means that the hexes automatically fit together, and helps to break up the repeating hex structure.

A quick test with just one tile gave this:

I'm pretty pleased with that and I'm going to play with taking this further whenever I have time between other projects. Currently the plan is to create a couple of tiles for a few different types of district:

Rich - big houses, parks
Medium - large houses, terraced
Poor - high density small houses, no big streets

Then I need to figure out how to include specific features into the map, such as a castle, rivers, docks, city walls, a market and so on. Some should be given markers that just indicate they exist (such as a specific inn). Others should e shown on the map (city walls, docks). I'll resurrect this whenever I come up with new sketches, and any feedback is always good but this won't move quickly as I'm stacked up right now!

There's a bit more discussion of this on my blog here:

03-23-2011, 06:23 PM
What a great idea. :)

03-23-2011, 06:41 PM
The main things I was going to suggest are walls/gates/towers and some tiles that are less populated for something like a village or act as the suburbs outside the walls of a keep (edges of the city where things are more spread out as opposed to the tightly-packed downtown area). To that end you might want some of those town-house types where the houses are built adjoined.

03-23-2011, 07:01 PM
Good idea. I was wondering about how to do city edges. Thanks for that!

03-23-2011, 09:22 PM
Agreed on the less populated hexes for smaller towns and villages.

Overall a great idea and very useful for us end users!:D


03-24-2011, 06:39 AM
looking good torstan, much more organic this way :)

Steel General
03-24-2011, 06:44 AM
Great idea Torstan... maybe you should consider doing sewer tiles as well?

03-24-2011, 07:10 AM
I agree, this holds great promise.

03-24-2011, 02:08 PM
I've been playing with the idea of a making tiles using a colour "mask" and a heightfiled. After rotating them and pasting them you take the heightfiled layer, duplicate it twice and emboss one copy and run an edge detect on the other. It is a lot of work to make the heightfilelds, but once a "library" were built it would be fairly easy to assemble these (or generate random maps programatically using imagemagic)

Sample tile colour mask:

Sample tile HF (note there is a road as well, it is just a small difference from the background, and maybe I shouldn't have done that.... Even terrain could possibly be added in):

Rotating these tiles gives me this "map" when embossed:

And the edge detect (inverted) for "outlines":

And the final result... emboss layer set to overlay and edge detect layer set to multiply:

The only thing it doesn't create are shadows :(

-Rob A>

03-24-2011, 02:34 PM
I have been thinking about something similar ever since I saw this fellow's geomorphs (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?9957-Post-Apocalyptic-Modern-Street-Geomorphs) (TiltingWindmills). He does a great job of giving the appearance of randomness despite having square tiles. Just creative use of streets and angles, I think.


03-24-2011, 03:50 PM
Yep, the key seems to be enough internal variation in the tiles to break up the inevitable outer shape patterns. That's an excellent example RE - thanks for reminding me of that one.

For the programatically designed tiles, I can see the use of the directional shadows, but it's easier for me just to draw each one out than script it and run it. Now if I was generating a whole random city at once then I can absolutely see the value in scripting each building, with heightfield, along with some road design algorithm. I'd love to see how far you could take that - perhaps the City Engine program Ravells recently found would be the way to take that?

05-02-2011, 07:31 PM
Torstan, what a fantastic idea! I am amazed by how much mileage you can get out of a single hex tile repeated & turned. Can't wait to see when you make ones for the different parts of the city.

05-02-2011, 08:14 PM
It's slightly on a back burner at the moment as I clear commission work, but I really want to take it forward. There have been lots of good suggestions for content for the tiles.

05-08-2011, 06:54 PM
Dear Cartographer´s,

This is my first post in the forum. For months I´ve tried to build a city map for the capital of my fantasy kingdom, but got a enormous difficult to place houses and streets in a natural way. This hexagon tile idea just solved my problems and for the first time I was able to take this project forward.

To give a little small contribution to this topic, I made my "own version" of this hex tile quarters. I replaced all the original white squares for dundjinni rooftops and also created a stone pattern for the streets. This is a transparent PSD file, that means you can just apply over any land texture and you got a crowded little town.

Waiting anxiously for other hex tiles solutions such as with medium and big houses and even a castle.

best regards

05-08-2011, 07:29 PM
Just seen this thread. I've tried and failed to do convincing tiling cities...the closest good looking thing I've seen are the tiles in the game Carcasonne...but the stuff here looks really cool. I'll have a think and hope to contribute.

05-09-2011, 11:14 AM
Neat atreidestm! It's good to have an alternate version so that different aesthetics are accommodated.

05-09-2011, 02:22 PM
That's pretty nice atreidestm. I'll update this when I get a few more added in. When using the tiling texture for the roads you need to be a little careful that the texture will match when you butt tiles up against each other. That's why I was going with a flat colour to start with. But also having a nice bordered edge to the tile will do it to.

05-09-2011, 03:42 PM
Here's my effort with the same style that Torstan used with his tile but with slightly more elaborate shaped buildings and more wiggly roads and mixed up with Torstan's tile. Actually doesn't look too bad for just using two tiles.

::edit:: and with a cheap and nasty wall.

05-09-2011, 06:52 PM
The wiggly roads don't read like roads or a city to me. It looks like either rocky terrain or forests. The buildings similarly don't read as buildings to me. They look more like shrubs or plant life, which feeds back into the foresty look.

05-13-2011, 12:58 AM
Hello Cartographer´s

I´m uploading my second version of a hexagonal quarter based on Torstan original idea.

After I placed the first version over my map, I got a sensation that something was weird. The houses placement looked way to much spreaded, without any sense of urban organization. I opened my Google Maps to do some research and pointed my quest for answers to the city of Bremen (Germany) since was a medieval city without much changes since her foundation.

What I found watching the satellite photos is the houses inside the quarters did not spread randomly, bu instead organizes itself in closed clusters, following the street contour. I adopted this aproach and ended with something similar to this.


The only problem is when you join the hexquarters, they usualy need a few adjustments so the houses could fit properly. Soo far, I´m liking the results in my city. I uploaded the PSD version so more people could conduct experiences and show new results.

Hope I´ve contributed a little more to the subject

05-15-2011, 08:09 PM
I think what we need is a hexagonal city block mapping challenge. Once the challenge is over, perhaps one or two of our best mappers convert the hexagons into a common style. Thisway, we'd get a whole bunch of tiles from which to use in the future. Or at least a head start.

05-15-2011, 08:18 PM
Sounds do-able.

05-16-2011, 11:28 AM
I´m uploading my second version of a hexagonal quarter based on Torstan original idea.
The only problem is when you join the hexquarters, they usualy need a few adjustments so the houses could fit properly. Soo far, I´m liking the results in my city. I uploaded the PSD version so more people could conduct experiences and show new results.

Oooh, preeetttyyy . . .

I would say though, that on a map TILE, the buildings should stay within the tile, unless they are going to line up no matter how you turn the tiles. So I would say tweak realism just a bit so that they fit. Also, I'd suggest having the road background in its own layer covering the entire tile, with the buildings then placed on top. It would just look cleaner. That or put in a dirt background or something underneath the clusters.

05-16-2011, 12:22 PM
Here is my alteration to the hex image as provided by atreidestm:


Mostly the same, just added a background to it and moved some buildings around so they don't stick off the edge.