Architecture in games

What is Architecture?

People usually associate Architecture with the design and construction of buildings. It’s main definition is:

“The profession of designing buildings, open areas, communities, and other artificial constructions and environments, usually with some regard to aesthetic effect. Architecture often includes design or selection of furnishings and decorations, supervision of construction work, and the examination, restoration, or remodelling of existing buildings.”

Definition from Dictionary.com

In spite of this main definition, the word Architecture does not only have to be used in reference to the design of or construction of buildings. You can have the Chemical Architecture of the brain, or The Architecture of a computer network. So, perhaps a more apt definition is the secondary definition of:

“The complex or carefully designed structure of something.”

Definition from Google.com


Architectural styles

Though existing at the same time and in close proximity, cultures can have wildly different and distinctive Architectural styles. Similarly though, countries that conquer neighbouring territories can impose their architectural styles of the conquered lands, and adopt some elements of that territory’s Architecture themselves. Some examples of cultures that existed near each other around the same time are:

  • Roman – Features perfectly semi-circular arches and large columns.
  • Egyptian – Doors are perfectly rectangular, and large structures taper at the top.
  • Viking – Roofs that are high peaked, and have highly decorative cross beams.
  • Medieval – Timber structure, and floors grow larger the higher they are.
  • Tudor – Iron-grey timber and coloured plaster, exclusive to Britain.
  • Art Deco – Uses regular geometric shapes, features lots in America.
  • Art Nouveau – Uses lines, shapes, and forms inspired by the natural world.
  • Russian – Features Onion-shaped domes and are highly colourful.
  • Arabic – Also features Onion domes, but are more ornately carved.
  • Japanese – Roofs have a shallow curve to them, and buildings are quite plain.
  • Chinese – Roof curves are much deeper, and buildings are much more ornate.

There is a massive number of Architectural styles in the world, and so not all of them are included here, these are just several examples of how different styles relate to each other (or not as the case of Roman and Egyptian). Differences and similarities in Architectural styles can point to similarities and differences in the culture of the two societies.


Why is Architecture Important in Games Design?

How often is it that you see a videogame that does not include any kind of building or structure? Especially in our age of next-gen consoles and open-world adventures, we expect that our games should be completely immersive and realistic.  If all of these games contained structures that were simply pulled from people’s imaginations, they would be completely unbelievable as realistic locations. If the people who created the “Assassins’ Creed” games had simply imagined what these real-life locations had looked like, they would be completely inaccurate.

We need to look at Architecture in Games Design, because it helps us gather inspiration and lets us see what buildings really looked like during that period of civilisation in that area of the world. In order to create anything in a game that looks like something in the real world, you have to look at the real world. If you are designing a castle, you have to look at castles. If you are designing a crossbow, you have to look at crossbow. If you are designing a door handle, you have to look at door handles. And so on and so on and so on.

Looking at Architecture is important because it lets us understand how buildings of that time were made, what they looked like, and what they were used for. In turn, this helps give us inspiration to help us make new buildings that are built in the same style as that architecture; it helps us recreate real-life buildings (like Caroline Miousse made Notre Dame for Assassins’ Creed: Unity); all of which means that our games can be more realistic and more immersive than if they were just plucked from people’s imaginations.

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