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Dreaming Spires

A charming new city from ElysiumFire!

Ah, city living. The buzz of the cars on the street, the gentle flapping of pigeon wings, the hustle and bustle of business-type-people going to work and coming home again. It’s nothing like country life. Except for the pigeons. Those flappy boys are everywhere.

Back in the day, cities weren’t like that at all. Instead of cars, the buzz was generated by horses and men yelling about meat prices. Instead of the hustle and bustle of business-type-people, it was the hustle and bustle of people trying desperately to avoid the streams of pee coming from the windows above. They still had pigeons, of course, but there were probably not as many. It was a simpler time.

This build is a simpler city only in terms of its time period. Built by French team ElysiumFire, the city is a sprawling, towering testament to architecture that existed long before computers, and is inspired by (but not a direct copy of) Novigrad, the city from excellent Polish RPG The Witcher 3 - a game that was heavily influenced by classical European design.

“This map does not reflect the real Novigrad,” says ElysiumFire, referring to The Witcher 3’s main capital (which, er, isn’t real), a Europe-inspired red-roofed medieval city on a hill. “It's a tribute to a fantastic game we all played and that inspired us to build this project.”

You can see the European inspirations in the buildings: red roofs, cathedral domes, columns everywhere, and a city so vast that it would take days to explore every single alleyway.

“It's our biggest project yet,” the team tells me. “The city itself is very wide and very dense - there are no empty spaces.” If you’ve ever taken a trip to a good old-fashioned European city, you’ll know the feeling - as if every inch of space is a house, a cafe, a church or a plaza. Space is expensive!

“The planning is very simple,” ElysiumFire says. “Our planners spot an interesting place in the terraforming... and they start making plans: they draw street lines onto the ground, houses positions, places at junctions, gardens... and they progressively covered all the terrain.” It’s a port city - which means vast, tall boats in the harbour, grand stone bridges over the rivers, and long, thin jetties reaching out to the ships like fingers.

There’s an interesting contrast between the bright stone and red tiled roofs of the buildings on land and the more old-fashioned wood and cloth of the ships in the port that makes this city seem like it’s on the cusp of a time period, halfway between old and new.

Surprisingly, the city was designed without a model - no direct reference to buildings, just the builders’ creativity. “Most of us are builders, able to imagine and build absolutely everything! From little houses to majestic churches!”

One thing that is missing from this build, as with most massive city builds, is the interiors. You won’t find any furniture in this city; its citizens probably just… sleep on the floor. There is a reason for this, though, says ElysiumFire: “building interiors almost takes more time than building exteriors!”

The entire city took six months to build, which probably would have doubled with interiors. Ah well. Sleeping on the floor is meant to be good for your back. But if you go exploring inside, you might end up stumbling on a secret anyway. “Our builders are jokers,” the team admits, “so they built some interiors. Players have some easter eggs to find!”

One of the most remarkable things about this project, other than its size, is the impressive timelapse the team made of the city being built. It makes six months look like no time at all, the way the buildings rise from nothing to beautiful spires, domes and cobbled streets, but the timelapse has a dark secret: IT’S ALL A LIE.

“Like most projects, this is not a real timelapse,” ElysiumFire tells me. “This is a reverse timelapse. That means we build first, then we manually, block by block, destroy what we previously built. It takes a lot of time and it’s quite boring. Finally, our videographer reverses the video!”

This has a much more impressive effect than doing the timelapse the right way, because it’s much smoother, and there aren’t any mistakes.

Hey, I'm not judging. Sometimes, you have to bend the rules a little bit to create something beautiful!

Renders by Iskillia, MrBatou, Udvio, Killerack, Imotep and Timothy C

Kate Gray
Written By
Kate Gray

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