OpenGeofiction

Making realistic small towns

Posted by ATMunn on 10 March 2018 in English (English)

So I'm sure everyone knows about the Making realistic cities wiki article. It's quite a useful article, but I find I have a hard time making it useful.

The biggest thing that I have a hard time with is the choosing of a model city. I'm not wanting to make a city now, I want to make a small little town. There are hundreds, if not thousands, more small towns in the real world than there are large cities, and finding a good one to use as a model city seems... impractical, if not just impossible.

My plans for the town I'm working on right now (see location) is to make it a little beachside resort town, with hotels and the like near the coast. There's already some roads there, but what I'm having trouble with is knowing how to expand those roads. Also, probably the biggest thing I struggle with, as I imagine is true with many new users, is scale. Knowing how far apart roads should be is not something that comes easily to me by any extent.

Another thing that's difficult for me, that kind of goes along with the previous things, is "zoning," for lack of a better word. I don't know what areas should be commercial, what should be residential, what should be industrial (if any), etc. The only thing I really know is that I want some hotels on the roads closest to the coast. The reason why this is a problem to me is that knowing what's going to go where affects road spacing. Residential areas are most likely going to have shorter distances between roads than a commercial area, but by how much? I have no idea how big each of these areas need to be or the road spacing for them.

I would post something like this in the forum, but I can't, so... sorry ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Location: HA 31, Hertigholm, Halverside Prefecture, Rhododactylia

Comment from isleño on 10 March 2018 at 19:02

The cities tutorial applies just as well to small towns: Look at real towns, choose one to use as a model, select a good site, draw it as it would have evolved historically, then add points of interest and other details.

Selecting a good model doesn't have to be hard. There's no need to spend endless hours searching through thousands of towns to find the "perfect" one. Just pick a place that more or less resembles your vision. In this case a small seaside town, grid layout, sandy beach, warm climate, US style... so maybe something like this?

Once you have a model town, it will provide the answers to your other questions. You can use Thilo's handy scale helper to compare your town with the model and get the scale right. The problem of 'zoning' also can be solved by looking at your model — see where they put stuff and put your stuff accordingly.

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Comment from ATMunn on 10 March 2018 at 19:25

Hm, okay. That should help a lot, actually. I guess putting in a little time to at least try to find a model in the real world first would probably be better than just assuming it would be too hard :P

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Comment from LemonKing on 10 March 2018 at 20:13

About scaling: the problem is usually creating too big units, not too small. It takes patience to stick to small scale. So if you are unsure, map small, and you won't make big mistakes. In residential areas, parallel streets are usually 50-100 m from each other, at least that's a good starting point.

You can pick a model building in the real world, measure and replicate it carefully and multiply it to help with scaling. Also looking at satellite pictures and street view will help if you haven't actually visited the model town.

The zoning issue has troubled me, too. Note that many commercial units are integrated into residential areas, so commercial / retail areas are actually only needed for major shopping centers and office areas. Here's a randomly picked RW example:

https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/42.69497/3.03369

Also, zones can fairly easily be altered afterwards, so don't get stuck with the background color, you can always look at it later.

Happy mapping!

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Comment from ATMunn on 11 March 2018 at 02:01

Yeah, definitely making things too big is what ends up happening. Another thing I'm wondering is: how do people make such perfect looking grids? I know you don't want to be perfect everywhere, but having a grid that is at least consistent within a small area seems quite hard to do, at least with JOSM.

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Comment from austinhuang on 11 March 2018 at 05:41

JOSM has the O button.

  1. Make a quadrilateral (a shape with 4 nodes).
  2. Select that shape.
  3. Press O.
  4. Some magik

With that and with the use of measuring tools You'll Probably end up with a nice grid.

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Comment from _zM on 11 March 2018 at 14:40

Also, try the angle snapping feature (try pressing A once or twice) for drawing 90° angle lines, split at the angle point and bam, perfectly perpendicular lines.

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Comment from ATMunn on 11 March 2018 at 14:53

Ok, thanks.

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Comment from Sarepava on 11 March 2018 at 16:59

Small towns vary depending on the date they were founded. In Europe, they would once have been medieval villages, which expanded but not enough to become cities. In newer countries, they might have been founded by settlers, or planned by authorities from greenfields. In the last sixty years, an old village might become a small town because of large scale house building as the population grows and the area becomes desirable.

Either way, they will contain nearly all the amenities of a city but scaled down. There is likely to be a lot more suburban areas as a percentage of land, as people will often live in the town and commute to a nearby city. There may only be one or two industrial buildings in the town, more likely ones which have remained there for some time such as a brewery, textile mill, or craft industry. National businesses may locate smaller offices in the town.

Small towns are usually polarised more than cities in terms of wealth because of their size. They will either be depressed due to the loss of a key industry, or else affluent because wealthy workers from nearby cities live there. Having good transport connections is a key driver of this.

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