View Full Version : CityEngine - 3D modeling software for urban environments

12-08-2009, 06:20 AM
Saw this and thought you would like to see - might have been posted already

If you like 3d rendered cities, import form real world maps, want a quickly generated city layout (then you could do a top down view ) then check this out...

http://www.procedural.com/ (http://www.procedural.com/)

you can have simple buildings or complex ones for making a video game, the way it will create cities from your own layouts as well as real world ones is worth a look alone.

free trial for 30 days, so get as many of your town layouts done before it ends! :-) - (as it's about $3k) Quite an amazing piece of software.

12-08-2009, 11:31 AM
Very cool. Expensive, but very cool.


12-08-2009, 12:23 PM
It's overkill for a cartogrophy project, but the results are impressive indeed.

12-08-2009, 02:00 PM
I'm wondering if it could be adapted for making fantasy-style cities, at the moment it looks a little more tailored towards modern/futuristic settings.

I imagine if you gave it a texture bank of thatched roofs, adobe/stone/beam walls, you could get a decent town out of it if you limited to building height to 2 stories..

Might be easier to map that out too.

12-08-2009, 02:44 PM
That thing's pretty awesome. I've seen one high-end city generator that wasn't very impressive...looked like mostly grid-aligned streets and such. This one seems to allow for a pretty wide variety of layouts, buildings, etc. I would totally buy that if I didn't have to pay my mortgage this month.

12-08-2009, 04:03 PM
i'm considering downloading the trial, but it doesn't have the machine specs anywhere. That's got me thinking it's one of those cases of "if you have to ask, then it aint gonna work for for you"...

12-08-2009, 10:36 PM
I suspect City Engine's requirements are much less steep than any 3d software you'd be using it with.

I seem to recall that the demo has no export function, which is why I'm not using it for one of my projects right now. Of course, nothing stops you from setting an overhead camera and taking a screenshot. On the other hand, there is a procedural city modeler for Blender that is free. I haven't tried it yet, but obviously the features of a free Blender plug-in aren't going to measure up to a pro film-quality tool.

12-09-2009, 03:45 AM
i'm considering downloading the trial, but it doesn't have the machine specs anywhere. That's got me thinking it's one of those cases of "if you have to ask, then it aint gonna work for for you"...

Hey here is a link to the system requirements, maybe this is what you are looking for:

CityEngine System Requirements (http://www.procedural.com/cityengine/requirements.html)

Also there is a new release coming out in the next two days. CityEngine Version 2009.3 with new examples and features, should be worth the wait.

12-09-2009, 04:04 AM
Hrm, dunno how I missed that.

Well, looks like I could push it, depending on how dual-core dependant it is. Then again, I don't think my graphics card is up to snuff either.

Ahwell.. I can dream :)

12-09-2009, 05:59 AM
. Of course, nothing stops you from setting an overhead camera and taking a screenshot. On the other hand, there is a procedural city modeler for Blender that is free. I haven't tried it yet, but obviously the features of a free Blender plug-in aren't going to measure up to a pro film-quality tool.

Yeah - that's what I imaged to do. There's been multiple discussions on trying to create a convincing city/ street network layout - or rather the buildings from above - done in Photoshop/GIMP in the past here.

The learning section for this program shows how quickly you could do all this... http://www.procedural.com/support/learning-videos.html

check out "1. cityEngine basics" - they have white background and grey buildings, enough of a contrast to make a selection set and cut paste onto your map. he creates the streets in seconds,

Then you could probably bring it up to the basic level of detail only, make sure your light source is in the right place, do another screen grab and selection and use it as another layer.

With the function to import your own larger layouts (http://www.procedural.com:9099/help/topic/com.procedural.cityengine.help/html/tutorials/Tutorial_04_Import_Streets/toc.html) you could customize for your map. (there is a video on the site for this somewhere, but can't find it right now)

other interesting videos in the
Heightmap creation, Street editing, 2. streets

The FREE stuff

Here's some links to the blender script Midgardsormr mentions - all depends on how much control you want I guess - free stuff is always worth a look at! It's pretty impressive for a free script (http://arnaud.ile.nc/sce/screenshots.php)- everything looks very 'skyscrapery' but I would assume you can control the maximum height and get decent results for your medieval towns and cities



for the purposes of the end results on a map it's a great tool to try and probably more than enough.

03-17-2011, 08:59 AM
I've downloaded the trial version of city engine and have been having a play. The trial version does not export, but the nice folk at City Engine have given me a 10 day licence which allows exports. I took their pre-made medieval city into Bryce and retextured the the ground UVs and came up with this. This was rendered at very basic settings (no soft lighting etc), but I think it's pretty cool.

I have to say, I'm incredibly impressed with it. It's a stunning program and as my birthday is coming up I might bite the bullet and buy the indie version for $400. There is a much cheaper option of getting a version which only does VUE exports for $200.

The HARD part about city engine is that because it's procedural, you have to code your building shapes and characteristics using a programming language (rather than drawing them in a 3d app) and that looks like a steep learning curve for me, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

03-17-2011, 09:44 AM
Looks sweet! I'll have to correct you: the Vue version costs $300.
Please tell us more about the workflow, scripting etc. Where do you start with this program and what are the main steps until you have a finished city?

03-17-2011, 10:05 AM
Apologies, the indie version is $500...(gulp).

There is so much to it that to explain it all would take ages. Much easier if you download the trial version and have a play there are some good tutorial videos that come with it.

03-17-2011, 10:20 AM
Very nice!!! I love the ground texturing/features although the height_field looks a tad facetted? I shall have to have a look at this and see if I can't better it! I'd have to say that the buildings are all a bit "single block with roof" in this example and some of the scaling looks a bit off to me (the wall crenellations look a bit large compared to house size for example?).

03-19-2011, 08:57 PM
wow! that's stunning! whether the 500 is worth it depends -i think- big time on the available models/'code-snippets' for props and their price. Programming each 3d prop would take a lot of time i think, but If there are many props available this could turn citymap making to a new level. cheers, DJ

03-20-2011, 06:43 AM
Downloaded to try it and it tells me I need openGL 2.0 Spent half an hour looking everywhere for anything and found only one download for 1.1 that was labeled 2.1.

Would have been neat to try.

03-20-2011, 07:17 AM
You dont download OpenGL - its part of your graphics card driver. So if you have a gaming style graphics card like an nVidia or similar then go get an updated driver and it will come with OpenGL built into it.

03-20-2011, 09:20 AM
Yea I guess I haven't updated my graphics card forever. Probably won't support it. Maybe I'll have to try it on the macbook.

Thanks for the info.

03-20-2011, 10:01 AM
Thanks a bazillion for the update driver idea. That even helped me out with my dual monitors I just started running.

Now I can't wait to start playing with this and see what happens.
Thanks again, I wish you a great day or more, cause you sure made mine!

03-20-2011, 07:06 PM
Very Awesome. I guess you'd need to have to make a LOT of cities for this to be worth the huge coin, but it is super cool. Oh and Ravs, what are those shadows on the main road into the city? They almost look like streetlights??? :)

03-20-2011, 07:29 PM
Who knows? I didn't build the city....I just played inside it awhile...I think I am probably going to get this though but it's just the bloody time factor. I've got that Messiah software sitting and waiting to be used, I've got my font making software which I forked out quite a bit for which is now lying fallow. I've building a website which is tying my brain in knots....so much software and not enough time!

03-21-2011, 12:56 PM
I've had a chance to play with it even more, and I have to say I'm getting more and more impressed with CE. They have kindly invited me to a Demo in London on 7th April, which I've accepted. I'll report back!

03-21-2011, 01:28 PM
That's pretty awesome. You'll have to let us know how that goes and what they showed you that was really impressive. I'm sure they do some mind blowing stuff.

03-21-2011, 04:05 PM
Is the engine 2-stroke or 4-stroke...fuel-injected or turbo? If it's anything over 1-stroke then I'm toast.

03-21-2011, 04:55 PM
It's not as tough a learning curve as I first thought for the most part. Where it does get complicated is when you want to custom design your own building patterns.

03-23-2011, 07:22 AM

Slowly getting a grasp on this program. Though my machine is far too underpowered for it.

I have come close to getting the heightmap and streetlayout (obstacle) to co-ordinate with the AD&D map I am trying to replicate.

I converted my original map for three input methods.
1 is to garner the heightmap on greyscale. Got it close but need to blur it more for smoother elevations.
2 is for the topography a map for reference if you will. Might determine housing selection also
3 is for streets or Obstacle as they call it. Need to get this one correct, just straight black and white, white being streets.

Figuring out the map size and elevation to suit the original map is trial and error.

So far this is what I achieved, but it has too many buildings overall, and buildings aren't in all of the city sectors.


03-23-2011, 12:09 PM
That looks really cool Danjr. So are you tracing the major streets by hand or using the obtacle map? I've been trying to import my streets as DXFs but not succeeding as CE doesn't recognise Drawplus DXF exports, but making streets using the obstacle map looks like a good work around!

03-23-2011, 04:33 PM

I'm really impressed with your results with CityEngine 3D.

This one is on my buying list for sure. I intend to use it together with Vue9 Infinite in my next project which is to map cities from Greyhawk. I have fiddled around with Vue for a couple of years as a study thing and now I'm confident I will be able to make really cool things with it and CityEngine will be a very useful addon.


03-23-2011, 11:48 PM
My map is in Campaign Cartographer 3 so it is really easy to isolate the things I need for each aspect of the three imported file types. (heightmap, topography & obstacle/streets)

After I isolate the streets I converted it to black and white. It worked ok but I did it a second time by widening the streets with a paint brush.
I am thinking that I may have to make a better version of the greyscale heightmap so the elevations are much smoother. Figuring that may have to be done with shapes and gradients.
I'll post another image if I can get a smoother heightmap.