How to... Cities, Buildings, Shops, Streets, etc

Hi guys!

New here. I consider myself a newbie guerrilla producer, trying to make shorts and eventually games using Unreal as part of my pipeline.
I’m wanting to create cities for many of my projects, and was wondering what is the best way or tool(s) available for this? Thanks!!

Note: I’m looking for cities where I can have close-ups for cutscenes and/or shorts, and also that eventually I can make third-person shooters, such as Watch Dogs, Max Payne, or Beyond: Two Souls.

Please do answer the question above, but nonetheless, I shall give an overview of what I’ve been doing since I started with Unreal (about a three weeks ago).

I’m a Maya user, specialize in character animation, and know the basics of modeling and render. I can model inorganic stuff, but know very little of UV.
So in all, I try to use assets I find online, fix them up on Maya (or Max, when needed), then transfer to UE4. Also I plan to use some of the assets from the demos that we can get from UE4, as they can be used commercially. For characters I use Autodesk Character Generator, but recently switched to Mixamo’s Fuse ($50 Indie subscription) which also gives me 10 animations, good quality for the characters, and free rig (ACG also gives free rigs).

As for buildings and cities:

I have looked into the Modular Building Set and the Urban City from the Marketplace, but as I already invested in Fuse, and being in Colombia means that anything in dollars is more than twice the price (1 USD = 2,700 COP, and a salary that comes down to $400 USD per month), I can’t afford them right now.

I have used some sets from Unity, the NYC Block 6, so I had to transfer all the FBX’s to Maya, reimport the textures, re-export into FBX, import into UE4, and have some problems with lightmaps, for example, but overall they look nice.
I also have NYC Block 8, which is also free, but haven’t optimized it yet, as it’s too much work.

I have the Video Co-Pilot Metropolitan set, which comes with FBX and .OBJ of buildings, which are great, but they’re good for aerial shots and other distant shots.

I also have some sets from Evermotion, but the same thing, they either don’t load on UE4, or they have problems with lightmaps, and they have to be optimized on Maya or Max either way.

I am trying out the Lite version of ghostTown for 3ds Max, but so far all my tests have been in vain, as when I import the FBX into Unreal, it gets stuck on 75% and won’t load.

Lastly, I’ve just downloaded the Platformer Game, which comes with some buildings, so I shall be using those until I get money for one of the marketplace items, or one of you tells me of a better way to create cities and/or buildings.


You can always place the models in the Unreal editor itself. Is this too inefficient for you?

If you have Maya, couldn’t you just create a few modular meshes there? Then just edit those and manipulate them to create your city. I mean big city scapes are like heavy *** time consuming builds, but the assets themselves are pretty basic and can sort of inherit from each other.

I don’t rec putting the models into UE4 directly honestly. Working in Maya is so much better then you get this fantastic FBX that Unreal understands (assuming you didn’t overlap UVs or anything weird). You already have one of the best middlewares out there, why waste it?

Some users on here are heavy content creators. You could troll these forums and look in their signatures for asset creators. I’m a bit uncertain if you are trying to figure out how to make the actual city or how to model buildings. Building cities, especially heavy modern ones (I used the term “heavy” here a lot but only because of how accurate it is), it’s a lot of rigging and importing and lighting. Making everything look like it’s as dense as a modern gritty city. I mean that’s all in the editor. But building the assets is all in Maya (IMHO). I guess I’d need to fully understand which part you are asking for advice on.

Hey, sorry, didn’t get notifications for responses :frowning:

I have done that with some models, though it’d be great to know other ways.

I wonder, too, how games like GTA or Watchdogs do their cities… Model everything from 0? Seems like they wouldn’t want to spend so much time and man-power on something if it can be achieved procedurally and then hand-tweaked where needed…

Yeah, sorry, up to now I’ve been just a Maya guy, but trying UE4 has like, opened more ideas and possibilities for them.

My goal in the long-run would be to make games (less awesome) such as Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, which are heavy on story and interaction.
I prefer TPS such as Max Payne, Watch Dogs and GTA in terms of their cityscape.

So in short, I’m mostly interested in building the cityscapes.

Think of it like Lego. Maya designs the lego pieces, Unreal puts the lego pieces you built together.

If you make big, blocky, specific pieces, those might be great for a unique situation, but you can’t use that piece for many other things. So the best route is to make some modular pieces, then use Unreal to decide how those pieces are built and put together, and fine tune them.

There is a program called CityEngine that is made by ESRI. You can use that to create the city. Since your using the engine as more if a movie production tool and not as a game creation tool, this might be the better approach; you wont need to worry about collisions.

I would go for the modular approach though, since kt would give you better ways to customize stuff.


CityEngine Basic runs $500 USD… and it does not allow FBX export. You will need the Advanced version which runs $4000 USD.

My modeling and UV skills are rather low, and my patience even lower, so I think I’ll be getting the Modular Kit from the Market when I get a chance.


There is a free trial version of cityengine for 30 days with full export capabilities.