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City and Town Construction Advice

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avatar GhostXavier
Level 42 : Master Architect
The City/Town Megabuild
My favorite to create and browse on this site. 

Here are my own personal tips/tutorial in sections for different levels of detail. These are mainly small thoughts I think about when formerly working on my cancelled megabuild, Pixelmon Nuummite. It's was supposed to be a collection of cities but the project proved too ambitious for our small build team. It was instead replace with a solo megabuild that has proven to be far superior in nearly every way except city/town quantity and map size.

  • Basic Tips
  • Long Term Advice
  • Placement/Locations
  • Theme Notes
  • Specific Details
  • Terraforming
  • Infrastructure
  • Tool Advice
  • Food for Thought Questions
  • My Personal Workflow
  • Structure Ideas/List
  • Advanced Development & Planning

The Basics
  • Plan your build first. Cities take up space, and the last thing you want is squeezing buildings together cause you ran out of it.
  • Exteriors before interiors. This should be obvious, but you'd be VERY surprised.
  • Theme it. Cities are usually easier to build when you have a general theme for the entire place. Modern, steampunk, western, etc.
  • Towns can be a few buildings up to dozens with only basic stores and services. Just because you're making a town doesn't mean you need to go full tilt and create your version of Dubai Metropolis off the bat.
  • Think of a name later, this isn't important until you actually want addresses or something similar.
  • Don't TNT to remove structures you find obsolete; you may make more of a mess than you intended
  • Start a land city first before you get crazy and attempt an underwater/floating/sky/udnerwater metropolis as your first.
Long Term Advice
  • Rome wasn't built in a day. This is going to be a long endeavor if you're new to it.
  • Speed building can be fun but you may burn out of inspiration randomly. Take your time.
  • Think of it less like a giant build and more like dozens or hundreds of smaller builds.
  • If you're getting bored with the current building, move to another one for now.
  • Macros before micros: The little details do a lot but they soak up time. If you don't know what little details you want, do them after to personalize each building.
  • It's alright to take long breaks if you need to. Inspiration isn't an endless fountain.
  • Make sure you're still doing what you want. Sounds dumb, but if you feel you're forcing the build, stop. Hopefully it's a passing phase and you can get back to it later, sicne nothing sucks more than burning time on something you didn't find entertaining. 
  • If you're crazy like me, building multiple cities at once usually gives you enough builds to switch between them if you run out oif inspiration for one.
  • A city build may never be truly done so long as you wish to keep building it.
Placement / Location
  • The location of your build can help you determine what structures will best fit the city/town you are creating.
  • Most cities and towns usually develop in places that support life, aka close to a water source.
  • Towns based around mountain areas are usually mining towns or trading posts.
  • Fortress/military towns are placed in strategic locations such as mountain passes, the cape at the entrance of a bay, or a hill overlooking a river.
  • Desert towns always form around a water source for obvious reasons, and will usually flourish through being a trade town.
  • Towns built near forests will have a decent focus on hunting/gathering/logging.
  • Port towns are often the first to upgrade into cities due to large numbers of people entering and staying.
  • Resort cities or vacation spots usually replace all commerical zoning since their host populace relies on the area's scenic offerings as opposed to a dedicated labor force.
  • Industrial towns need either nearby access to their resource or plenty of trade routes to get it to them.
  • Agricultural towns need lots of space for farming, so the vast open plains biomes are ideal.
Theme Notes
  • Industrial towns try to make the most of their zoning space alotted, so cramped streets and buildings, especially in the residential area, is acceptable.
  • Floating towns, unless fantasy and on floating islands or clouds, require a sizeable power generator to operate whatever is keeping them afloat.
  • Glass domes is the common idea for underwater cities, especially ones keen on their tourism, but the more realistic approach is having structures capable of withstanding the heavy underwater pressure.
  • Steampunk is the industrial revolution, so if you use that as a reference (unsafe, crowded) you should be able to figure out a city footprint/layout.
  • Modern cities push the bounds of architecture and aesthetics, so combine structures with unique designs with tried and tested methods (variety of both). Dubai is an excellent example city.
  • While most cities have basic zoning layouts, newer ones are pushing for innovation. Unique terraforming is not out of the question for modern builds.
  • If you're going for a nature oriented build, think of how to best design and blend your structures with the surroundings. 
  • Agricultural fields are usually flattened for farming purposes and not kept on very uneven ground. If built into a mountainside, try terrace farming designs.
Specific Details
  • Cities usually have one or multiple defining icons. This can be a huge skyscraper, uinique statue, cathedral, etc. The more the better but do not make too many that they outnumber your residential buildings.
  • Graveyards are kept more towards the outside of towns.
  • Trees in cities are often trimmed and kept in check. Unless it's nature oriented, keep your trees simple in town.
  • Mods can change the needs/services of a city dramatically.
  • Unless playing in survival, feel free to make mood lighting with your block placement.
  • Tops of buildings have blinking lights for aircraft if yuor world has them.
  • Keep the world height in mind when building structures. This applies more to those building on a standard height world and not a flat build.
PRE-BUILD Terraforming Standard
  • There's absoloutely nothing wrong with having a generally flat build. Cities like New York are built flat as a construction standard.
  • Varying heights give cities unique looks and often present interesting design challenges to those used to flat builds.
  • The scenery of a city can easily compliment the design decisions you've chosen. 
  • The attention to the terrain around your cities will leave viewers either impressed or slightly discontent. It's a little bland to see your skyscrapers next to superflatworld plains, but it's alright, I understand the city always comes first.
  • If you decide to terraform the vanilla way, you may find an interesting take you want to try on your city with your partially finished terraform. Spur of the moment decisions are always fun and interesting.
  • When digging water ways through your city, remember that the more developed a city is, the more likely its canals are reinforced by high concrete walls or dock accessibility.
POST-BUILD Mass-Terraforming using World Painter or MCEdit
  • Sometimes it's better to just make very generic terrain beforehand to make city construction easier, than building the terrain around it after creation.
  • It is possible to import pre-made maps into World Painter if you think you need to do serious terraforming after the structures are in place. I recommend leaving areas with a building as "read only" as any height adjustments will destroy the structure.
  • If using World Painter, "Merge with Existing Map" is a better export option than having it delete old chunks and create new ones IF you have custom ores in place for mods.
  • By re-importing to World painter you can do everything terraform-wise you did before the city was in place, including placing custom layers (such as trees and flowers).
  • MC Edit is by far your best bet with precision placement of objects to further enhance the look of your city. It makes planting specific trees and Misc objects a breeze, especially compared to World Edit that just replaces an entire area with no "copy air/water" functions.
  • Give roads and sidewalks enough space betwene buildings.
  • Front/Back yards help give a spacious feel, so if you want cramped and crowded, sacrifice their allotted space.
  • If you're out of space for lights, try burying them in the dividers between roads and sidewalks.
  • Zoning: Place residential, commercial, aggricultural, and industrial structures seperately in different parts.
  • Emergency services should be placed mroe towards the center of town for practical reasons. You don't want the fire department running across the town to get to an emergency.
  • Commercial building tend to be significantly larger than residential.
  • Build details accordingly on structures: Entertainment buildings are very flashly to snag attention, where commercial are usually bland.
  • Don't forget the little things like parks, veterinarian offices, schools, gas stations, power plants, etc. Other options depending on your build's theme.
  • Sanitation is often forgotten; place sewers and treatment plants depending on your theme.
  • Depends on the theme, but military structures are often kept either at the outskirts, entrances, or complete center/highpoint (castle).
  • Shore towns often revolve around their boardwalk. Build larger buildigns towards the shoreline or on commanding hilltops so their visitors get great vistas.
  • Themeparks are almost always kept outside of town/city, but some entertainment buildings have smaller versions in and on themselves.
Tool Advice
  • MC Edit and World Edit are time savers. People can argue all they want about having "pure" builds, but not everyone has countless hours to log on minecraft. If you want to do it the pure way, by all means, al lthe pwoer to you, friend.
  • Doing it the pure way will take forever (my first cities were like this). Be rpepared to use a lot of time if you choose this route.
  • Copy/Paste is great, but donig it too often will make your buildigns look too identical. I use copy/paste for similar floors on structures, making roads longer, etc. Micro management.
  • Terraforming tools like WorldPainter and World Machine are great if you want custom scenery around your build. I only started using it recently and i'm smacking myself for now doing it sooner.
  • If you use custom packs (trees, buildings, etc.), try and use a variety of different ones if they're available, and don't forget to credit the packmakers!
Food for Thought
  • Does your build have room for expansion on the outskirts should you decide you want to make it bigger?
  • Can you mix and match? Floating isles on the outskirts, above surface entrance to your submerged town, etc.
  • Do you have a network or roads/waterways into and out of the town? 
  • Can you expand vertically? (into the sky, underground)
  • Will you be using mods? Plan accordingly.
  • Do you have any unique structures/builds you wanted to try out that may act as a town focal point?
  • Is the build in a dangerous land or peaceful?
  • Are you making this for an adventure map? Don't forget navigation difficulty for the players for this.
My Personal Workflow
1. I use map viewers/generators/editors to do a quick overview of a map in order to pick the most suitable location for my project.
2. After selecting the location, I may use world edit or MCEdit to do further terraforming unless I've premade my terrain using WorldPainter. This includes laying down space roadwork and sidewalks.
3. I make rough draft maps of the town's layout. These are very rough and likely change at least 50% as I build but serve as a nice guideline.
4. I lay foundations for several buildings at once. I switch between them as my inspiration shifts and to prevent builder's block from slowing construction. Only once a structure is finished do I immediately furnish it.
5. I always start with the largest builds first. These take up the moot space and attract the msot attention in the area and must be placed/built accordingly. 
Note: I do final landscape work like hedges/trees/fountains only after a structure is completed in case I have to reposition it.
6. Once the superbuilds are done, I begin work on smaller structures to fill in the spaces.
7. Any final landscape work and utilites are now placed.
Town Structure Ideas
  • Apartment Complex
  • Bakery
  • Jewelry Store
  • Magic Shop
  • Book Store / Library
  • Bank
  • Automobile Dealership
  • Gas Station
  • Town Hall
  • Radio Station
  • Train Station
  • Playground
  • Park
  • Sports Fields
  • Grocery Store
  • Sporting Goods
  • Fishing Dock
  • Marina (Ship Docking area)
  • Weapons Store (Variants dependant on your mod choices)
  • Hardware Store
  • Fast Food
  • Restaraunt (Basic or up to 5 star)
  • Construction Yard
  • Clothing Store
  • Scenic Drives
  • Surf Shop
  • Drive-in Movie Theater
  • Movie Theater
  • Pet Store
  • Overlook Vistas
  • Shopping Outlet
  • Police Station
  • Fire Department
  • Civic Center
  • Church / Cathedral / Synagogue / Mosque / Temple / Shrine / Sanctuary
  • Public School
  • College/University/Academy
  • Hotel / Motel
  • County Fair

City Structure Ideas (In addition to the town ideas)
  • Harbor with Piers for commercial shippnig and/or shipyard
  • Airship skyscraper
  • Airport
  • Commercial Skyscraper
  • Apartment Skyscraper
  • Convention Center
  • Sports Stadium
  • Prison Complex
  • Grand Train Station
  • Bus Depot
  • Mall Complex
  • Highways
  • Acquarium
  • Tour Center
  • Ski / Spa / Beach Resort
  • Subway
  • Casino
  • Theater Center
Advanced Development & Planning
  • Keep in mind the ratio between residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial sections. A city looks great with lots of skyscrapers, but those will logically be empty if you don't have enough apartment buildings to balance them.
  • If you would rather have different zoning areas seperated by a larger distance, or jsut wish to cheese a city's population by making it mainly commuter based, build major highways and rail lines leading out of the city.
  • As cities develop, unless they are well planned out ahead of time like Dubai, they will tend to remove older structures and replace them with newer ones. This leads to cramped areas and some places being very under-developed with tighter streets and living conditions, aka less pristine aesthetics and alleyways.
  • Grid style construction is very basic and easy for Minecraft construction, but if you want to stand out build your city to either conform to a crazy landscape or a unique geometric design such as a circle or triangle.
  • A city doesn't need skyscrapers to be a thriving metropolis. Consider underground areas with structures built lengthwise through the ground rather than upwards. Underwater structures can by cylinders or domes, and the same applies for a floating city in the sky.
  • If you're going to use your imagination to build a very unique city from the ground up, make sure you plan heavily before starting or you may get sudden, impulse designs and decisions conflicting with your already built structures; You can recycle a drawing plan but it's more of a pain to fix a build in progress.

Hope you found something that helped you! These are what I usually fall back to with my builds if I find myself with creator's block (no pun intended). Will be updated if I think of more tidbits to share.

6 Update Logs

Updated Terraform Section : 02/05/2016 3:40:01 pmFeb 5th, 2016

I split the terraform section into two subcategories and added a bunch of information regarding after-construction terraform using third party programs like World Painter and MC Edit. My latest project gave a lot of valuable insight to me on how plausible of a build method it is.

Comments : 19

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1 - 19 of 19

  • Laserbilly
  • Level 42
  • Master Engineer
  • March 24, 2016, 7:17 am
This is a good and insightful guide. I tried my hand at building a large sprawling starport/space station/city a couple years ago but lost steam maybe 5% into the project. I wish I had a nice, easy-to-follow set of tips like this when I was focused on it...

Great blog!
I love reading this :)
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • February 5, 2016, 10:42 am
Good to see I have some return readers for this!
  • MrEdwiin
  • Level 3
  • Apprentice Architect
  • June 16, 2015, 5:45 am
That's a cool article, thank you !
That make me realise that I've never think of clothing store, i will add this one to my city x)
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • February 5, 2016, 10:42 am
Glad it helped even if only a little!
  • 41solstice25
  • Level 41
  • Master Technomancer
  • February 3, 2015, 2:28 pm
I see I'm not the only one who enjoys sporting something Survey Corps related for Minecraft skins as a builder.
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • February 9, 2015, 4:19 am
Unfortunately it's a very outdated screenshot. I may switch back to it sometime, or maybe a custom one with the SC jacket for that matter.
  • 41solstice25
  • Level 41
  • Master Technomancer
  • February 9, 2015, 12:22 pm
Eventually, I started combining my SC skin with random stuff like a Santa Corps outfit where there's presents as the crests and a red cloke and santa hat, or my Wizard Corps with potions in the design more magic looking attire.
Thank you very much for doing this blog. Some matched from what I did and planned for my map but some did not, so I'm going to apply this with my next plans and I know it will work out well.
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • February 9, 2015, 4:20 am
Glad there were at least a few pointers that were beneficial! Best of furtune on your work!
Going to forward this link to my friends who are helping me with my city server we are building :D

Thanks for this great blog man!
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • January 30, 2015, 9:58 pm
Thanks and no problem, Epic! I wish you guys good luck on your build and don't get discouraged; it takes a bit but it's incredibly rewarding when you're done!
  • sonofdad123
  • Level 46
  • Master Geek
  • January 21, 2015, 10:34 am
Diamond and favorited because this is awesome advice. It's hard building large things like cities and towns solo, and even more so it's difficult to keep all of these things in mind.
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • January 22, 2015, 1:52 pm
Thanks! I feel it's kind of like everything else you do reptitively though; with time everything will just "click", just like the crafting recipes we would always wiki when we first got into the game.
  • sonofdad123
  • Level 46
  • Master Geek
  • January 22, 2015, 4:40 pm
Agreed! But for people like me who are putting together large townships and cities for the first time, having a reference like this to "fill in the gaps" is extremely useful.
  • robot_26
  • Level 40
  • Master Robot
  • December 14, 2014, 6:57 pm
What If I don't plan? What if I reverse engineer everything?????

  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • December 14, 2014, 8:38 pm
If it works for you it works you; not much else to say about that ;)
  • Will3crafter
  • Level 28
  • Expert Crafter
  • December 14, 2014, 4:00 pm
This was very helpful. Thank you.
  • GhostXavier
  • Level 42
  • Master Architect
  • January 21, 2015, 10:15 am
Glad it helped a bit

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