Project Sprawl: Mesmerizing Algo-Generated Game Architecture

world building architectural model

Facing down the difficult challenge of creating an ever-changing urban gaming environment, this digital designer went with a cheap alternative that is aesthetically compelling and could have impacts beyond cyberspace.

world building generative algorithm

The game, Project Sprawl, is something of a cross between the Grand Theft Auto series and classic roll-playing games, but most critically: its metropolitan context needs to be dynamic and full of surprises, evolving over time like a real city.

game buildings brutalist urbanism

Low on funds and looking for cheaper and easier world-building solution than stock skylines or fully-custom options could provide, Cedric Kerr “decided to develop software that could auto-generate complex cities, from street maps to skyscraper architecture, for his characters to inhabit.”

game building stretch animation

As these animated illustrations show, there are rules to the way the generative algorithm constructs buildings – starting with a simple baseline, windows and doors, cantilevers and split facades morph and evolve in mesmerizing ways.

gaming architecture stretch pull

From Wired, “The solution to Kerr’s urban planning problem came in the form of Unity, a game engine often used to design game worlds from the size of a room to entire solar systems. The result was a set of building blocks that could be pulled and stretched in any direction with facades that would update in real time. Kerr could quickly sketch an outline of a foundation and in seconds have a unique building automatically populated with windows, doors, and other architectural details.”

game building city grids

The result of this project is a kind of architectural vocabulary that could be useful for deconstructing architecture, creating simulations or generating backdrops for conceptual projects. From Kerr: “the idea is that each building is decomposed into a set of rules forming a grammar that describes each stage of the process. These rules are hierarchical so a building is made up of facades, facades are made up of floors, floors are made up of tiles, tiles contain windows and so on.”