Tips on starting a city

Posted by Anonymous21 on 8 June 2022 in English (English).

So… I’m planning on starting my capital city here, but I’m at a loss of how to start.

Here is a basic idea of what I’m thinking I want my city to be:

  • A mid-to-large-sized capital city of my country
  • An important governmental center
  • A somewhat-important port (but I want the city to look as if it was originally built around the nearby river mouth
  • A significant cultural, academic, and commercial hub
  • A high-tech area
  • The largest city in a larger metropolitan area (ie no substantial rural areas - there are two other significant cities nearby the capital)

The terrain is a relatively flat coastal area.

So, I’m really drawn to a blank as to how to start the planning of the city. I really want this city (and the metropolitan area generally) to be reminiscent of an old city that developed over a long period of time.

So how do I create a city center that looks authentic and not master-planned? How do I create a road system that doesn’t look like a curved grid system or something like that?

Anyways, I think you get what I’m saying.



Comment from TheMayor on 8 June 2022 at 03:32

First things first, delete the motorways. Do those last.

Start with the river and the port facilities. Near the oldest ports would be where the oldest part of downtown would be located; if it’s an important port city in modern times, a new set of ports would probably be located a bit away from the old downtown since they’d need more space to handle larger modern ships.

Once the old port and old city have been mapped (or at least loosely planned), map out some radial roads to other cities or the hinterlands (so farmers could get their goods to the city/port). Focus the next round of developments along those routes.

Then add railways and try to imagine how your city would’ve industrialized. The railways would also need to link to other areas outside of your city; try to imagine how goods would move in and out of your city and what routes they’d take. Your city would boom with industrialization; try to imagine where all the new factories would go, how they’d move their products, and how their workers would get to and from their jobs.

Industrialization would be quite dirty; plan out a few parks or natural reserves to give your city’s residents space to breathe.

Then plan your capitol area. Could be anywhere really, but a master-planned capital would look very different than a more organically-developed capitol area. (Consider the differences between planned capitals like Washington DC or Brasilia compared to places like London or Paris.)

After all that, then figure out where the motorways would go and how they’d serve the city.

Happy mapping!

Comment from Halvarda on 8 June 2022 at 10:59

Hej, (regional) neighbour with a suspiciously similar country name! :D

While the advice by TheMayor is good, I think there are other things you should do beforehand.

The main one of these things is topography. I cannot stress enough just how important, useful and simply good it is to have topography (at the very least sketched out) before you do any mapping.

If you truly want a realistic map, topography has to come first. Just think about it - wherever humans arrive, they are faced with topography first and foremost. They develop the landscape based on the topography. A settlement starts in a low-lying fertile area and then spreads outwards through the valleys. Alternatively, a settlement is started on an easy-to-defend hill and its development is primarily focused on top of the defensive plateau or something. You lay the first roads on hill ridges or in valleys, etc. Everything is decided by the physical geography.

If you map the city before you have a topographic map/sketch of the area - regardless of how supposedly flat you think it is - you’re going to spend a lot of time correcting and remapping it later on. Save yourself time and invest in a topographic map first.

Another suggestion is to pick a model city or two (or three). A city that’s culturally, historically, and geographically similar. See how it developed at different times throughout history. Look at old maps as well as current ones.

Comment from No Way on 8 June 2022 at 19:43

When you plat your roads plat them in the old way first. Then go back and construct on top of or realign the roadway. This will give you realistic roadways that have stubs of former alignments heading directly into town or in the downtown area. You can then go back and smooth curves, put the marked highway on different streets over time or even use the construction road feature.

I like to plat the roads going into areas like they would have when the roads were first built. I then go back and realign the highways on different alignments, smooth out curves or put the marked roadways on different street pairs in cities (common practice in the real-world US Highway network).

Some of the drawings that I have do no correspond to this as I first mapped in a blue area and then some of the roadways were then transported into my owned territory.

Use the topography first. Map older alignments and roadways and remember not every form of traffic can use a motorway. If you have obstructions in the way your motorways will be more realistic. You would either need to build around the obstructions or reconstruct the roadways leaving things like dead end stubs, frontage roads, nearby surface routes, and the like.

Comment from Anonymous21 on 8 June 2022 at 21:05

Thanks for your ideas! I’m thinking I’m going to center the city around the river mouth, so I’ll set that topography up first so that I can make the city true to the landscape.

Also, @Halvarda - my country’s name has quite the backstory. It was the name I gave to my biggest Minecraft city - Qara. I then named my first “practice” country Qara and so I carried that name over to my current country and just changed it to sound a bit more Nordic. I assume you own Keira?

Comment from Halvarda on 8 June 2022 at 21:55

No worries!

I wasn’t accusing you of anything, though, I’m just saying haha. Karolia was there before Keira, too, but it’s not like I was influenced by the name. It’s just fascinating how the three of us came up with similarly-named, Nordic-influenced countries and ended up in the same area on OGF.

Comment from Anonymous21 on 8 June 2022 at 23:15

@Halvarda I know it wasn’t an accusation, it is pretty funny that we came up with the same names though :)

Comment from Anonymous21 on 8 June 2022 at 23:18

So I decided to start by setting up the topography and developing an early history of the city (ie origin story). The city started as a medieval castle that developed into a local hub. I assume that’s a pretty common city origin story for a European city? :)

thanks for the help + suggestions!

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