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American Cities (References and Ideas)

edited January 2012 in Video Games
Right so, as you may be aware, I run a Red Alert 3 mod called Paradox. Though we're currently finishing up a release centered around the Vietnam War, so we're in the process of gearing back up for a release centered around America, with our American faction the Confederate Revolutionaries and three map tilesets; Heartland (the midwest and southwest/Old West/Route 66), Bayou (New Orleans/Swamp), and, most ambitiously, Columbia (Urban East Coast)

Here's the thing; I'm Canadian and a suburb kid to boot. I haven't kicked around much in cities and I've never been to an American city in my life. This is a problem, because we're basically insane detail nuts. So I'm turning to you guys for help.

Though with the internets I can go through Google Streetview and look at a shitload of buildings, I basically don't know what I'm looking for when it comes to establishing the tone of a given city. We can't remake the layout of a given city exactly for gameplay purposes, so I need to match tone, and if I just start throwing in things I see it'll be even more painfully obvious I don't know what I'm doing.

If you live in a city in the north-y, east-y bit of the US, or know a lot about them, I basically need some locations, buildings, objects, streets and/or pictures you feel capture "chunks" of these cities. When you step out your door, what do you see that reminds you of where you are? I'm thinking stuff like the ubiquitous yellow cabs in New York. What weird features does your city have? Is there any small businesses (shops, restaurants) everyone knows about (especially historic ones)? Strange geographic bits or road-building tendencies? Signs only seen in your city? Rail setups? Is there a particular colour to the old buildings? What do your street signs look like?

Any help would be appreciated!
Post edited by open_sketchbook on


  • edited January 2012
    In some of the older districts, there are rows of buildings with fire escapes on the outside (Soho). There are little parts of the buildings that go down below street level, and make little sunken cement yards by the sidewalk (you see this a lot in brownstone neighborhoods). The subways have these green globes that light up at night. We have a very specific type of subway train, which have letters in colorful circles to represent the different lines. We have tons of graffiti, especially on those metal doors people roll down to cover up their storefronts at night. We have a bunch of bodega stores with all these notices for cigarettes and lotto pasted on the window. There are trees in little planters on the side of the street.
    For neighborhoods? Well, you might try Greenwich Village. That's a pretty good New York style place, for smaller buildings. If you want sky scrapers, try the Financial District, or maybe Midtown. You could also look at Brooklyn for a more neighborhood feel, at Williamsburg or Bed/Sty. Upper East side (above the park) has Harlem, and again, smaller buildings and a more neighborhood type vibe. Times Square would be fun to model and texture, with all those bright touristy signs.
    Edit: Actually, the Lower East side might be a good fit. Not too crazy, feels very New York.
    Post edited by gomidog on
  • Thanks. That was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.
  • You can search flickr by the physical location of the photo taken. Might be helpful for visual references when it comes to design and texturing.
  • That and the picture thing Google Maps/Earth does.
  • edited January 2012
    Those are helpful for specific buildings or streets, and individual details, but I'm specifically hoping for residence to point out things invoking the tone of a city that myself, as a not-city dweller, might miss in a photo. Stuff like the colour of the fire hydrants and the shape of street signs, or how for some reason all the windows in this district have pointed tops or bright red brick. Maybe your city has lots of tunnels or unusually narrow roads? It's hard to see that stuff as unique from just a google maps flyover.

    Like, you know how if you wanted to make something look like Britian, you'd put Keep Left signs and red phonebooths and double decker buses? That sort of thing, but for New York, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, etc.
    Post edited by open_sketchbook on
  • I think for that you want to research the era the city you want to make was founded in. Here in Boston (est. early 17th century), there's a lot of colonial era buildings and the roads are narrow because many buildings were built before cars and such.
  • I think for that you want to research the era the city you want to make was founded in. Here in Boston (est. early 17th century), there's a lot of colonial era buildings and the roads are narrow because many buildings were built before cars and such.
    True. Also, I believe we have an unusually high concentration of Dunkin' Donuts. And colleges. And hospitals. So, looking at major industries and top employers might also be helpful.

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