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Title: Building an entire city

malika - November 4, 2010 01:53 PM (GMT)
This little something got started after my girlfriend dragged me to this design seminar since she studies interior store architecture/design. One of the models there was of this small village surrounded by really chunky walls.

So what does Malika want to do now? That's right, build an entire city! Scale will mostly likely be 1:5000, enabling me to build the entire city and still have it be of convincing size. I was pondering about building a medium sized city, in real life around 100km2 (around 10km x 10km). The model would thus be around 2 by 2 meters.

Model sci fi/fantasy models and maps for cities lack a certain level of "realism". I remember that Dark Heresy included a city map which was supposed to represent a city of around 1 by 1 kilometers, but having a population of 1.5 million. Not very convincing... Especially since real cities with a similar population would be way bigger. a city such as Paris for example has a land area of around 100km2 and an urban area of almost 3000km2 (let's say 60 by 50 kilometers).

Looking at those sort of sizes it might even not be possible to build an entire city and fit it in my house, maybe it'll stick to only a fragment of the city, which would still be rather large.

The model would function as a 3d map of a sorts which could potentially be used for wargame/RPG campaigns, but the current goal is to construct a model of a city which could be used for a scifi setting but still has a high level of realism to make it convincing enough.

As for the feel of the city itself, two main themes (which are probably the result of both my bachelor and master thesis projects) will be dominant, namely:
-Self sustainability

Paranoia is mainly fear. Pre-modern cities were surrounded by large walls and moats because outsiders were feared. They were also used in order for trading guilds to regulate business, they would decide who enters the city and by what rules business is conducted. In modern cities this fear changed, it was no longer outsiders who were primarily fear, but those living within the city. If we look at the redesign of Paris during the Napoleon era this becomes evident. Revolutionary spaces such as small streets and tenements around the city centers were removed in order to displace and dislocate the revolutionary classes. Another reason for these big streets was that it enabled the army to easier use artillery and other heavy weapons against a violent mob. Wide streets also enable easy movement of troops. Big streets for military purposes also become evident when looking at the German autobahn which were designed in order to transport tanks across Nazi Germany more efficiently.
Large squares and other public spaces in which people of different classes, ideologies, genders, ages, etc could meet have also been tightly managed in the last couple of decades in order to make these areas "more attractive" to the business community. In this city these areas would be no different, perhaps they would include giant screens which would display propaganda constantly.
Another concept used to provide security against internal threats is by building fortified city blocks. You could compare them to gated communities but on a much smaller scale. Imagine a city block turned inward, you could only enter the block through a single entry way. Whilst this provides some sort of safety for the inhabitants, they could also easily be isolated when needed to. Quarantine could easily be maintained that way, especially if these blocks are not self sufficient for food production.

This leads me to my second point, namely self sufficiency. Whilst it would not be possible for the city to become a 100% self sufficient area, it could move towards it. Phil's Ecorium concept kind of sees a return here, or at least the sources from which he drew inspiration. Urban farming like in Cuba (using free spaces to produce crops) and vertical farming would be very common. I can imagine districts within the city which could be deemed fully rural, or at least food producing. There are cases of cities in the UK which are fully self sufficient when it comes to food production. Havana also has become self sufficient if I'm not mistaken.

Self sufficiency is also sort of the result of paranoia, there might be this permanent fear that the city might be under siege. If that does happen it would be disastrous if the city was fully dependent on outside sources for food.

So how will paranoia and self sufficiency be represented in my project?
-Large city walls: keep outsiders out.
-Districts surrounded by walls: ability to isolate them when needed.
-Urban and vertical farming: produce enough food to supply the city.
-Food production in protected zones: habitation districts not able to produce their own food, thus enabling government to control people by controlling food distribution lines.
-Wide streets: prevent blocking, easy movement military

Materials planning on using:
-board (type of cardboard also used for architectural models)
-whatever I can get my hands on

The aesthetic feel I imagine for the city, which might not be visible in 1:5000 scale is kind of similar to Communist Gothic, but also Imperial cities in 40k but with a more Eastern European feel, perhaps more akin to City 17 in Half Life 2.

Expect pics/sketches/etc in the coming days/weeks! :)

Tips, comments, advice, etc more than welcome!

Noserenda - November 4, 2010 04:31 PM (GMT)
This sounds awesome dude, very keen to see how it goes!

malika - November 4, 2010 05:17 PM (GMT)
Thanks! I've been looking a bit into the Necromunda related graphic novels for some inspiration, as well as the Dark Heresy material, but both have been kind of lacking. Are there any Black Library novels I should look into which give a (limited) description of cities or at least city life in 40k? Something a bit more than "ooooh it's so big and gothic and miserable!".

Arden Fell - November 4, 2010 07:12 PM (GMT)
Have you looked at maps of real cities to base your town on?

Budapest sounds like it could be quite a decent map for your town. The old town within a thick city wall surrounded by wider streets and a river and some damn fine architecture.

As for sustainability, if we are talking 30-40k then surely there would be loads of bio-domes and poly-tunnels on roof tops. Not to mention heat exchangers, moisture condensers and bio-digesters.

This could turn out to be a pretty smart model.

Look forward to seeing some pictures.

malika - November 4, 2010 08:00 PM (GMT)
I've been studying Paris (for the whole defensive architecture thing, wide streets etc), Rotterdam (harbour city next to a river) and to a smaller extent Moscow and Leningrad. Rotterdam is around 300km2 and has a population of around 700k. The plan for my city is to have lots and lots more higher buildings, the scifi element will enable me to have lots of buildings which are several hundred meters tall.

I've been looking a bit into parasitic architecture (in which houses become their own small ecosystems) as well.

The plan is to combine two big interests of myself, namely model building and (social) scientific research. The city will sort of me elements of both my university theses put in practice. But yeah, it will be a long and slow project...lets see how this will go! :)

Noserenda - November 5, 2010 01:38 AM (GMT)
Off the top of my Head Necropolis and Helsreach both feature extensive cityfighting and are good books to boot :D There are probably more in the BL catalogue though.

malika - November 5, 2010 07:54 AM (GMT)
Necropolis I have, Helsreach I don't. Is that the one with all the Marines fighting the Orks? Normally I have a very hard time reading most Black Library stuff (maybe I just hate reading battle scenes because they're kinda dull to read), Dan Abnett's stuff is always quite fun to read because he tends to go deeper than purely the usual "and the Space Marine is so bad ass and then he fought [describing the battle in full detail] and won", which is probably also why I liked Soul Hunter so much.

As for Necropolis, I'll probably start with the first book of the series (managed to get all the Gaunt's Ghosts books till Bloodpact). :)

I started with Eisenhorn a few days ago, hope to finish it next week.

Anodyr - November 5, 2010 08:15 PM (GMT)
The Ravenor novels (either the first or second in particular... ssorry, memory fail... :( ) are set in a city, with nice views of life amongst the city's normal working folk.

Also the Eisenhorn novels do plenty of geographical hopping, giving a few nice, if broad-stroked, views of different hab environments. theres also a nice Eisenhorn short story somewhere (one of the anthologies maybe..?) about an ex-servicemen's organisation which shows a nice, acid-rain soaked slummy hab environment.

Finally, the Shira Calpurnia Arbitrator novels (haven't read the third, but the first two for sure) are police procedural novels set in hive cities. The Necromunda novels are good too, with occasional glances at life above the Underhive.

Hope that helps. :)

BigWill - November 7, 2010 04:57 AM (GMT)
Maybe check out some old Gibson Judge Dredd's
He drew an awesome Mega-City 1

I think this could be an epic project now enough with the yammering and get to the glue gun my friend :D

malika - November 11, 2010 09:48 AM (GMT)
Here is a little something I wrote down during work. I still need to write some of my ideas for stats. I also don't really know yet how to do it with miniatures. The city project will likely be 1:2500 or 1:5000 scale, so the miniatures would be more akin to markers rather than clear miniatures, more akin to the markers used in the Horus Heresy boardgame. But yeah, let me know what you think of the premise and I'll keep this updated. :)


This project is closely connected to the City Project, whilst the City Project (CP) is the construction of the city itself; UWSW is the continuation of the original project. The CP is meant to represent a totally paranoid city, its entire architecture and planning is meant to be hostile towards both internal and external threats.

UWSW needs at least two players, one presenting the Defender whilst the opponent is the Attacker. Both positions offer their advantages and disadvantages. The defender will have access to resources, known as Advantage Points, which are part of the city itself. For example if the city contains a harbor, the defender will be able to use that harbor to ship in resources and reinforcements. The attacker does not have these during the start up advantages, but is capable to taking over these Advantage Points. The attacker could have special offensive capabilities such as aerial bombardment.
In a Single Game there are certain types of Advantage Points such as bombardments (for the Attacker) or harbor (Defender). However, for Campaigns there are several other Advantage Points such as factories that can repair/replace/upgrade units, food or fuel production facilities that enable the player to send in further reinforcements. When playing the Campaign it becomes very important to conquer these Advantage Points during battle since they can determine the rest of the campaign. More on these Advantage Points later…

In a game of UWSW there are two types of units, namely Vehicles and Infantry. Whilst there are many types of infantry and vehicles, in the game itself it each Unit Marker represents entire formations of infantry or vehicles that are armed with all sorts of weapons. Units can be upgraded to have better weaponry or armor.

From your basic grunts to heavily armored elites to rag and tag civilians who picked up their arms. Infantry is capable of moving in smaller streets and occupying buildings. Only Infantry can take over Advantage Points.
Infantry is divided into three types of armor and three types of weaponry. The three types of armor are No Armor, Light Armor and Heavy Armor. Weaponry is divided into Standard Weapons, Anti Infantry and Anti Armor. Standard Weapons are the common rifles of infantry, be it assault rifles or laser rifles (depending on context). Anti Infantry weapons are more specific such as sniper rifles and/or guns with armor piercing ammunition. Sniper Rifles are more accurate weapons and offer a higher chance of penetrating infantry armor, these advantages would only work against infantry, and against vehicles these weapons are as good as totally ineffective. Anti Armor weapons could for example be bazookas and are used to hunt for vehicles such as tanks. Heavy weapons, making it hard for the carrier to run around. What the unit sacrifices in speed it makes up in firepower, weapons work better against vehicle armor. Because of its lack of speed and aiming/reloading time it is less effective against infantry. Infantry can run for cover, making it harder to hit them. But if hit the consequences are more disastrous. Note that Infantry with Anti Armor weaponry cannot occupy buildings or Advantage Points (too much collateral damage if these weapons are used inside). However, it is very effective against enemies who are hiding inside buildings, able of killing Infantry inside buildings while preserving them for your own Infantry to enter. The three types of armor are pretty straightforward. No Armor is exactly as the name suggests, the unit is wearing no armor. This means that if the unit is hit it goes down immediately. Light Armor offers the user some protection, especially against Standard Weapons. Heavy Armor is the best protection a soldier can wear, be it powered armor or the use of energy shields. Heavy Armor protects the user from most Standard Weapons and Anti Armor (or at least making it very hard for one to kill). It is not that effective against Anti Infantry weapons. Another downside of Heavy Armor is that it slows down the wearer. Units in No Armor and Light Armor are able to move normally or Fast whilst units in Heavy Armor are unable to move fast due to the extra weight.

Everything from armored cars that can race through the city to heavy tanks that can take anything but the most powerful weapons. Vehicles are better protected and generally better armed and faster than infantry, but are unable to move into smaller streets or occupy buildings/Advantage Points. Furthermore, Vehicles are unable to duck for cover during a firefight.
Vehicles can be divided into three categories; these are Light Vehicles, Medium Vehicles and Heavy Vehicles. Light Vehicles are fast vehicles with little of no armor at all. What they lack in protection they compensate in speed. Light Vehicles are also smaller, enabling them to move into smaller streets like infantry. Medium Vehicles are better protected than Light Vehicles, but are not as fast and maneuverable. Still faster than Infantry, Medium Vehicles are unable to move into smaller streets. Medium Vehicles are better armored and some of them are also capable of carrying Infantry units inside. Heavy Vehicles are heavily armored and armed. These monsters are capable of withstanding most enemy fire while decimating entire units of them. What they have in firepower and protection, they lack in speed. Heavy Vehicles move no faster than standard Infantry (in No Armor or Light Armor). Some Heavy Vehicles are capable of transporting Infantry, thereby offering them extra protection from enemy fire. (only Medium and Heavy Vehicles can carry Infantry)
Light Vehicles can only be armed with Infantry type weaponry, see above for more on that. Medium and Heavy Vehicles have their own array of weaponry, with some of the weapons unique to the Heavy Vehicles. Like the three types of Infantry weapons, the Vehicle weapons can be categorized into three types: Standard, Anti Infantry and Anti Armor. They work very much the same as the Infantry weapons, with the only difference that they tend to be more powerful, either having higher strength or longer range. Furthermore, Vehicle speed is not influenced by weaponry mounted on them (there are some exceptions, more on that later). This means that a Medium Vehicle can retain its speed whilst being armed with Anti Armor weaponry.

More soon!

malika - November 18, 2010 10:41 AM (GMT)
By the way, here are the first sketch-up pics, so that you guys kinda get an idea of what I'm trying to do:
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Note that the model isn't fully up to scale yet. The idea is that the city is paranoid not only to external but also internal threats. Wide streets prevent people from blocking them up. The districts are separated through moats and high walls, enabling them to be easily isolated in case something does happen. Districts have limited self-sustainability in case sieges do happen.

malika - November 21, 2010 02:28 PM (GMT)
Slowly figuring out Sketch-Up more and more:

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This new model is more in scale and a lot more accurate than the previous one. Note that the buildings are huge. The factories on the left for example are around 130 metres long, 50 metres wide and 75 metres high.

malika - November 29, 2010 01:17 PM (GMT)
By the way, some more pics...

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Been adding traintracks. Most of the trains will go through an "underground" (underneath the elevated components of the city blocks) route, enabling fast transportation of good and passengers throughout the entire city.

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Working on new designs for some of the other districts. The landing pads zone was already a test for elevated blocks, but these are taking it to the next level. The two squared blocks are connected by a large bridge. Entry through the blocks will only be available through naval ship I think, not sure yet.

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Working on more docks, figuring out the copy/paste function a bit better, but it's still not as easy as I imagined, selecting specific components and rotating them into the right configuration is still a bit difficult. None of the docks have cranes yet, but they might come once I get better at using the program! :D

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This was originally the second dock I made. The original design was just a small elevated platform and two holes in the wall, now I've added four storage buildings, a silo, added more accents to the walls and created an arched wall between the two halves of the platform.

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Smaller landing pads added for specific access to the big building in the center of the block. Note the people of the bridge crossing the building and landing pads.

I'm thinking of taking the paranoid/need for protection feel to the next level. The idea of having to draw millions of tiny windows on each of these huge buildings kind of bugged me. Furthermore, due to their size most people living in the buildings (who don't live near the edges of the buildings) wouldn't have windows/access to day light. I'm toying with the idea that none of the buildings will have windows at all. The outer walls are around 5m thick, basically becoming mighty bunkers of their own, able to withstand most types of conventional bombardments. You might wonder how these people would then get light. Who wants to live in total darkness? Conventional artificial light (famous yellow lights) isn't the way to go, whilst it adds to the whole grimdark feel of 40k, it simply wouldn't work. Suicide rates would be enormous. I imagine all the apartments inside the buildings have their inner walls covered with large screens which provide the illusion of windows. I guess that the supplier of those buildings (who is either the state itself or controlled by the state) would provide the feed for those screens. I imagine most screens would then demonstrate a beautiful outside world, or at least the normal outside world. In certain moments, lets say a war or conflict, a state of emergency could be declared; people are forced to stay indoors, the screens only projecting nice things rather than the conflict going on outside.

malika - December 9, 2010 02:03 PM (GMT)
Sort of an overall view of the madness so far...
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One of the new docks:
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Great thing with the docks is that they enable me to experiment a lot without risking to mess up the entire city...

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Bread and games was a motto once used by the Romans. I guess that in any other totalitarian regime they might want to try to a similar approach, look at the Olympics for Nazi Germany, or the upcoming Football (I refuse to call it soccer) World Cup in Russia. The area is huge, a diameter of 400 meters, major sports and combat events could take place. Thousands upon thousands of people could view them inside the arena. The screens inside the habitation units could also transmit the broadcasts from what's going on in the arena...

More skyscrapers
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Plan is to have every block have a sort of "central building" which is an unique gigantic skyscraper.

Giant pillars:
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Slowly figuring this aspect out...

Another landing platform:
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More skyscrapers and factories:
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View taken from a random building in the city:
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More landing pads:
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I imagine that most passengers would land at the shuttle port, but more urgent business (which is normally conducted in the skyscrapers, the elites' centers) might require better access. The skyscrapers tend to have their own landing pads, enabling specialized transports to land.

More factories:
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Another dock:

Arched tunnel:
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ShroudFilm - December 9, 2010 06:21 PM (GMT)
Very cool stuff, reminds me of when I had a go at Maya to design a city for uni! I didn't get anywhere near this level though.

malika - December 9, 2010 08:01 PM (GMT)
This is all done of google sketch up, which is free and a lot easier to use than Maya (if I have to believe my architect friends and girlfriend). I'm currently building this city not only to implement some of the theories I used for my anthropology thesis, but also to learn how to use sketch up. I'm slowly learning to add details and create more advanced structures. I hope to eventually switch to making detailed vehicles and such. :)

malika - January 4, 2011 12:55 AM (GMT)

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This is going to be one of the mega structures in the city. The tower stands about 700 meters tall!

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The first block I started with is more or less finished, as in that all the buildings are in there. More details and stuff will of course be added later on.

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The second block is starting to fill up.

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Added a smaller fortress structure between the cities. In a 40k setting this might be an Adeptus Arbites outpost, in any other setting this might be a security forces command center.

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Overall view of the city as it currently stands.

malika - January 10, 2011 02:28 PM (GMT)
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This is what the entire city currently looks like. As you can see a second side is slowly being built. I might want to experiment with adding land areas to the city as well, so that it won't be that the entire city is built on water.

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One of the new bridges, I'll add a human for scale later, it's rather huge, spanning over a kilometer long!

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Another bridge spanning the river, also over a kilometer long. I was kind of influenced by that large freeway/bridge thing you see in movies/videos/shows about Miami.

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A new tower, the round platforms on the top are landing bays for smaller shuttles. The stands at exactly 800 meters tall!

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Status of the city blocks

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Close ups on the city blocks themselves.

malika - February 28, 2011 04:48 PM (GMT)
I've been working on a new project. This is another city project. This could be considered some sort of "mini hive". The idea is that you would originally have had several very tall buildings, but eventually more were added and more were connected to each other, creating a sort of single structure. Later on a form of shielding is placed around the city.

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malika - March 16, 2011 11:59 AM (GMT)
I'm currently working on a new and improved version of my original concept city. I will add no "details" (such as different colorings and fancy renderings, or arches, etc) to the buildings. This will enable me to construct a larger city without my computer crashing, but also enable to simply give you a better 3d map of the city which focus on the city itself rather than small technicalities.

Note that this is still very much a work in progress:
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malika - March 23, 2011 02:43 PM (GMT)
Some more new updates:

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Top view

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What are those big tubes?

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What are those tall structures in the background?

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malika - April 19, 2011 07:54 AM (GMT)
For now this city is more or less finished, all I might do it play a bit with the shades, fog and those kind of things, but the construction of the buildings is done.

I might try to make it look more like an interactive map.

After this I am very tempted to take a closer look at those towers surrounding the city...

But yeah, pictures:

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MrBojab - April 19, 2011 12:12 PM (GMT)
Amazing, simply amazing.
As a fellow user of sketch up, I understand how difficult and time consuming this venture would be. If it helps at all, I believe there is a mod that will allow you to view larger objects without extencive computer crashes. It uses a system whereby it saves each portion of a structure as a separate file. Then, it creates a collage file that feeds off of the others. This allows the system to micro manage its use, reducing the chance of a crash.

Unfortunately, when I updated my computer, I lost the mod and have been unable to find it since. However, I wish you luck if you try to find it. Although, it may not improve performance by that much.

All that aside, I congratulate you on an absolutely fantastic job, it is great and you should be proud of such a work.


malika - May 22, 2011 12:02 PM (GMT)
First of all, could one of the mods maybe move this thread to a more fitting place on the forum, maybe the artwork section or something?


Started working on a new city, the previous map and this one will just be two different worlds, might be used for RPG's:
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Retook the industrial towers from the previous design and placed them here as well:
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Note that this is still veeeeeeeery WIP.

BigWill - May 22, 2011 08:46 PM (GMT)
Looks really good.
What program do you use to make all of that.AutoCad?which one?

malika - May 18, 2012 11:26 AM (GMT)
Sorry for the very late reply. This stuff was all done on Google Sketch up.

Started working on a new city a while back, the first shot can be seen here and here is another close up.

malika - June 17, 2012 03:09 PM (GMT)
Been working on something slightly different. Sadly enough my laptop isn't strong enough to go full crazy here...


malika - June 21, 2012 05:24 PM (GMT)
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Fulgrim - June 23, 2012 10:39 PM (GMT)
Dude, as an architecture student, I think what your doing here is excellent. Actually, it makes me what to give it a go myself. Seriously, keep up the work

BigWill - July 12, 2012 06:05 PM (GMT)
Screw the outdoor shots you are really onto something with gigantic interiors
Last pic is really really cool,you need to start photoshopping statues into the nooks

malika - July 13, 2012 09:57 PM (GMT)
My ambition will be to draw the interior of an Ecopolis, but my main problem at the moment is my laptop. Normally it isn't that great at handling detailed sketchup models, but now that somebody dropped beer in it goes even slower, making sketchup an ever harder challenge.

So...erm...anybody willing to donate a new Macbook Pro for the good cause? :lol:

BigWill - July 15, 2012 08:45 PM (GMT)
Just spill some coffee on it,your laptop is drunk is all :lol:

Gagoc TheAncient - July 16, 2012 04:37 PM (GMT)
Malika have you tried anything with software to ry and speed up your laptop?

You'd be amazed at how much dross actually slows down you computer through Startup and by leaving useless bits in the Registry.

malika - August 3, 2012 12:45 PM (GMT)
What software upgrades (free ones, since I'm broke) do you recommend for Macbook?

malika - September 20, 2012 09:44 AM (GMT)
Just started on a new project, namely to create a complete Ecorium Hab-Unit. More on that here and in the Sciror section of the forum.

First two WIP pictures.

Living / working section of the hab-unit. In the back the first of the rackfarm sections can be seen.
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Here is the first version of the rackfarm. Each rackfarm section will include 96 of these babies.
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More to come soon!

malika - September 21, 2012 09:10 AM (GMT)
The hab-unit is almost done. I've even made some textures based on your floorplans.

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The Villa, storage unit, processing plant and workplace need some serious work. I want to create a sort of nasty rural factory feel for it, but still fitting the aesthetic of the rest of the space.

The feel of live inside the Ecorium, at least in this one, to me is similar to that amphibian game system factory in eXistenZ or life in that city in Avalon. People live their lives, life seems to pass them. They work, but then spend most of the time plugged into alternate/virtual reality just to avoid the mundane boringness or every day life.

Dave_1972 - September 21, 2012 12:28 PM (GMT)
Ever play X-Com? The floor plans remind me alot of the X-Com base layouts from X-Com:Apocalypse.

Great work, btw. Gonna be awesome.

malika - September 21, 2012 12:44 PM (GMT)
The idea was to create a complete Ecorium, but I think my computer would never be able to handle each. A complete Ecorium has 45 levels, and each level has 6 of the hab-units I'm working on.

I might try to create a single level of an Ecorium, with 6 hab-units, public area in the middle which would contain a small market, conveyor belts, rails, and trainstations outside the block.

Here a picture by Philip Sibbering of a complete level in an Ecorium, just so you have an idea what I'm talking about:
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malika - September 21, 2012 09:21 PM (GMT)

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malika - September 30, 2012 01:59 PM (GMT)
A new project:

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