Created by a small team of architects turned game designers (Jose Sanchez & Gentaro Makinoda), Block’hood is a vertical city simulator with emphasis on ecology and decay. As a player, you take control of a neighborhood and develop your community within limited space. The challenge is provided by the requirements of the blocks you create, forcing you to satisfy the need of resources.
The mechanics of Block’hood are simple and intuitive, but with great depth, allowing players to truly design diverse neighborhoods within the engine. The team believes that games like Block’hood can be used to design the cities of the future, having a close correlation with the real world and the issues we continue to face.
Block’hood was developed in Unity3D building on the programming skills Jose developed using Processing, being part of the generative design community developing architecture and procedural geometry. Software Jose wrote for designing buildings or graphics would often be used only by himself or few other designers, but he was hoping to get a large audience to explore all the design space of a design tool. This is where games come into the picture. He was always a fan of games but it took him some time to connect the dots.
Block’hood is structured as a cellular automata, like the ‘Game of life’ where each unit can look at other units around it and share information with each other. While the game of life has 2 states (dead or alive cells), Block’hood offers 90+ different blocks representing the state of a cell in the system. Each block has a specific set of resources (data) it can share with the community, but to do so it will require an input. (another set of resources). This Input / output strategy generates the first mechanic of Block’hood, that of ecological interdependence.
The second mechanic of Block’hood is that on decay. Blocks that do not meet the resource requirements will decay over time. They will decay up to the point of collapse, where they will become abandoned or broken. How much each unit can resist depends on its resilience level. This mechanic forces the player to keep the neighborhood in equilibrium and harmony.
Finally, the final mechanic to be added by the final release (not available yet in early access), is that of coexistence. The team are developing an agent based model that will represent the inhabitants of the neighborhood. These inhabitants will flesh out the micro narratives that can occur in the city.
Jose believes that the players will probably always play with a subset of Blocks available, as they intend to continue increasing the library of blocks in the months to come.
“Unity3D has a great environment to develop the database of blocks as the possibility to expand the editor allowed us to develop the right environment that would allow the game to scale over time. Blocks, resources, color schemes, achievements, agents & levels, are all databases that are interrelated allowing us to add new content to the game in a very quick way. The game interface adapts to the content of the databases. While I have always been a great fan of procedural geometry, Block’hood is an experiment of how interesting and weird can the creations of people get. Specially for the field of architecture and design, I feel that crowdsourced platforms allow for interesting idiosyncrasies to manifest through the creations of players. I can’t wait to see what people will do with the game and hopefully follow the comments to improve the game based on players experience.” – Jose Sanchez.
Block’hood s available for Mac + PC and launching tomorrow (10th March) as an Early Access title, as they hope to develop further the game in the following months, including more blocks, inhabitants, biomes and transactions between different plots.