Need American point of view and suggestions

I’m currenntly working on a zombie shooter/survival…something game. I don’t have a solid idea for the environment yet, so I make it up as I go. I think I’d like to have different themes for each level. Like, one map set in a rural small town. Another map in a big city environment. And then maybe the suburs. But anyway, I decided to start with designing a rural midwest small town.

The problem is that I’m swedish, born and raised in Sweden. We have cute small towns here too, but the architecture and overall design looks nothing like an american small town. If you’re an american reading this post, you’re probably very confused as to why I would attempt to build something that looks american when I could easily build a swedish looking town. Swedish people typically watch american movies and series. And we also play american computer games. We’re so used to watch anything like that in american settings that it, for example, even feels kind of weird to watch a swedish action movie. It just looks “wrong” somehow. A zombie outbreak game set in a swedish environment would look utterly weird to any swede. Whereas movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hills Have Eyes makes complete sense to us. It’s an american pop cultural influence that can’t be compromised.

For the record, I’ve done some road tripping through the US. I’ve passed through small dusty towns in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I’ve seen those towns, but I still don’t have the “feel” for how they are built. I’ve mostly based my design on memory, movies and googled images. So far built two blocks. American small towns typically have tiny stores side by side as you pass through them. Maybe a church and a gas station. Then they just end and you’re in the middle of nowhere again. I made an attempt to make little stores next to each other. My question is…what’s typically behind those stores? Parking lots? Trees? Apartments? I’d be so grateful if I could get som creative input on how to make my town look reasonably real. I mean, I guess I could just place a huge mall on the back side of each block but that’s not whan an american small town looks like.

Here’s what I’ve done so far. You may laugh if you want to, it’s ok. To my defence, the models are still very rough work in progress.

The “main street”. One block on each side of the road with stores.

Left side.

Right side.

And what would the average american expect to find on the other side of each row of stores?

You could use google street view and design stuff based off image references.

That’s what I was thinking too. One “problem” with google streetview, at least for me, is that I basically don’t even know what town to google. I suppose I could google “American rural small towns” and look at google street view for each of the towns. But it does take away the fun of creating my own imaginary town. Because I want to build a completely fictional town out of my own imagination, but at the same time I do want it to look somehwat like a town to that could exist in reality. I guess my dream scenario would be to team up with an american friend who would constantly review the progress and point out things that doesn’t look right, or suggest various buildings or designs you’d normally expect to see in a town. That friend wouldn’t actually have to know anything about 3D or computers at all. Just someone who has the “feel” for what an american small town would look like. Not because that working process is particulary efficient, but because it sounds like fun. Given that I’m not a pro game designer and I don’t work under time pressure.

No one actually creates stuff from scratch, even if you want to make something original you should get as much reference material as you can. You don’t have to copy them, just need to know what they are like and why they’re like that.

Funny that you mentioned “filming” locations like Walking Dead, by the way love that show, so Googling filming locations would probably be a better starting point than just using street views. Being Canadian there are more than a few zombish movies that uses western Canada filming locations as stand in’s for American locations. Check out Supernatural.

I would say less color, more monotone