Architecture with Architecture_Engine_1.0
Jochen Hoog, Dipl.-Ing.
Institute for architecture and design, Vienna University of Technology,
Architecture_Engine_1.0 is a software game installation. It’s a computer
game, where the player acts in a 3d virtual environment, like in a
first-person-view game (ego-shooter). The focus of my thesis is to show how a
game engine can be used in the architectural design process. In contrast to
modifying computer games (modding) or using them as fast real-time rendering
machines, I want to stress the possibility within game engines to run self
programmed scripts (behaviour) in a programming language.
In the game Architecture_Engine_1.0, the player starts as a human being in
the ego-perspective within a virtual space, where four objects act and react to
him and to each other. The architect can take the role of the player or even of
an object. Four simple cubes always ‘know’ where the player is and follow him.
The player is pressed for time, because he is loosing time-credits every five
seconds and only in doing something can he
gets time-credits back. The result is a reactive three
dimensional virtual architecture, within which the player can interact in
The process of an architectural design task is
divided in two parts. The first one (design-time) is to break down the specific
design task into rules and to define the environmental conditions of the
virtual space, i.e. gravity, size, time, goal of the game, perspective of the
user etc. (That is a very useful way for an architect to handle the resources, the
time management, the planning regulations and the budget in a project.) In the
second part (runtime) the architect now becomes the player; he tries to win his
own game, he can influence the spatial events, and according to the
possibilities of a game engine he can be the user or even the architectural
object itself. The architect becomes part of an infinite, generative, and
The result is always different and unpredictable,
even if the basic rules are very simple. The possibility to change the
perspective in the game, which means to become even the architecture itself,
really changes the definition of an architect: Play architecture before the
game is over!
In the last
couple of years the technology to create three dimensional (3D) virtual
environments has become very powerful and cheap. The evolving computer game
industry provides a wide spectrum of software tools like game engines to create
fully accessible and responsible 3D worlds rendered in real time. The focus of
this paper is on how architects can use games engines for the architectural
design process, especially to emphasize the feature of a game engine to use
self programmed scripts (behaviour) in a 3D virtual environment. In contrast to
a computer simulation a computer game is an environment which you can interact
with objects in real time, the player can be part of the 3D virtual
environment. The architect can become the architecture itself.
provide hardware-independent access to computer hardware such as input devices
(i.e. keyboard, mouse, and joystick), and output devices like graphic cards,
network cards, and sound cards. “A game engine
is the core software component of a computer or video game or other interactive
application with real-time graphics. It provides the underlying technologies,
(…) like a rendering engine (“renderer”) for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics
engine, collision detection, sound, scripting, animation, artificial
intelligence, networking, and a scene graph.” 
A 3D virtual
computer game is a real virtual world, calculated and provided within the
computer, and the game engine shows us at least 12 rendered pictures per second
(frames-per-second) on the screen of the computer, so the human eye sees a living
image of this world. Everything within this virtual environment is a computer
calculated object with certain behaviour: the objects, the light, the players,
the sound, the virtual camera, which gives the perspective into the virtual
world, and so on. They are called entities (e.g.: the entity light has the
behaviour to illuminate, the entity floor has the behaviour to be static etc.)
The virtual world itself is a three dimensional Euclidean space, which has to
be limited, because of the limited computer power. So the most virtual worlds
are big boxes.
In the game
‘Architecture_Engine_1.0’ I used 3D GameStudio (Version 6.1). It is a computer
game development system with a model editor, world editor and a script editor
(C# - Scripting language). It provides a physics engine to create gravity and
(1) Screenshot virtual world and
"I dare to predict that within 10-15 years almost all architects
offices will hire software programmers to design their own customized design
software. Animation software is out, game software is in." (Kas Osterhuis)
To examine how
a game engine can be used for a specific architectural design task, it was
decided to divide the design process into two parts: design-time and play-time.
In the design-time the designer has to break down the specific design task into
computer readable algorithms. He has to define the environmental conditions of
the virtual space, i.e. gravity, size, time, goal of the game, perspective of
the player etc. The designer has to write computer readable scripts. The design
process has to be simplified. The most important issues of the design task have
to be extracted and simulated in an abstract way. The architect has to think of
That can be a
very useful way for an architect to handle the resources, the time management,
the planning regulations and the budget in a project. After designing the
scripts (behaviour), they will be assigned to the objects (entities) and the
game can start.
play-time the architect becomes the player; he now has to win his own game, he
can influence the spatial events; he is part of the simulation and can interact
directly within the design-space. The designer can become the user, the player,
or even the architectural object itself.
In order to
demonstrate the possibilities in general the rules were kept to a minimum. The
aim was to create architecture through the movement of the player in the
virtual game world. Also I wanted to add an element of gameplay in order to
force the player to explore the world and to force him to do something.
“Gameplay is a crucial element in any skill-and-action game. This term has been
in use for some years, but no clear consensus has arisen as to its meaning.
Everyone agrees that good game play is essential to the success of a game, and
that game play has something to do with the quality of the player’s interaction
with the game.” (Crawford) .
starts the game as a human being (avatar) in
the ego-perspective. As in first-person-shooter games he can walk and look
around. The virtual space has an earth like gravity. From the beginning onwards
there are four kinds of simple cubes of various sizes placed around him. They
always know where the player is and follow him (which is their behaviour). If
they reach the player entity in a certain distance (collision detection) they
stop and stay there for a couple of seconds; after that they delete themselves
and are reloaded somewhere else to start the loop again.
(2) Behaviour 1 - “Search and go to the player!”
(3) Result of behaviour 1
the interaction between the player and the environment during the play-time,
the player is pressed for time. He starts with 100 credit points and he looses
credits every five seconds; only in doing something can he get credit points
back. The player has to activate the cubes by pressing the left mouse button at
it (like shooting). By doing so, the player changes the behaviour of the cubes.
An activated cube now has the behaviour to copy itself twenty fold in a random
direction away from the players position.
(4) Behaviour 2 - “Copy away from the player!”
(5) Result of behaviour 2
The player has
the possibility to load a prefabricated stairway and a little bridge, so he can
easily build upwards. In the virtual world are hidden some ‘invisible events’.
If the player touches them, some trees grow randomly around the player or some
virtual visitors are loaded.
(5) Result of behaviour 2
3.2. Be god, be architecture
All objects in
the virtual world are entities with behaviour. The ability to control an avatar
with the keyboard and mouse is a written script that enables this function in
the computer. This function is assigned to an object. Also the view into the
virtual world is only a kind of virtual camera which simulates a human eye. In
contrast to our world we live in, you can change these kinds of assignments in
the virtual world, which means you can look into the virtual world as an object
(third-person-view) or like a god from the sky (god-view). The control of the
movement of the human avatar (which is another script) can remain or it can be
assigned to an architectural object. So the player becomes the architectural
object, he becomes architecture.
(6) First-person view, third-person
view and god view
(7) Player is architecture
When the game
is running (play-time) the player can only do what have been planned to be
possible within the scripts. So it is possible to replace behaviour by another,
but you can’t change the script itself. For that you have to go back to the
design-time, change the script in the script-editor and start playing again.
“Every Game has its own rules. They determine what should happen in the inner
world of a game. They are all-dominant, and no one is allowed to doubt about
the rules. Only if you are in the game, you can change them.(…) Paul Valery
mentioned in some very precise words: It is not allowed to have any kind of
scepticism about the rules in a game (…) if you brake the rules, the game
dies.” (Huizinga) 
produces virtual 3D data in real time. It is possible to ‘freeze’ the game and
export the 3D data at any moment.
into the world is your keyboard, mouse and your screen. The player gets the
normal game like information, like the menu to save, load or stop the game, or
a display with the current credit points. On the upper left corner of the
screen the player can load a ground plan-like top view of his position in the
3.6. Too much architecture
To work with
computer based algorithms in a game engine brings up an interesting problem.
The computer throws up too many results. It is not only necessary to write
scripts to create something; you always have to limit your work, in space and
time. A virtual computer created world, is indeed a very limited thing. Within
the currently available computer power and the 3D GameStudio software, you can
provide about 300 working entities. So the architect has to think about ways of
destroying and deleting, not only of creating.
3.7. Software bugs
I had the
experience of working with scripts that can be very frustrating. Things are
right or they are wrong. There is no grey area, no in between. The
Architecture_Engine_1.0 has approximately 500 sheets of written scripts. So the
chance of forgetting one semicolon is big and because of that the game will not
start. However there is another kind of error which is more interesting. If the
game runs and everything seems to work properly, sometimes something strange
and unexpected happens. In the Architecture_Engine_1.0 the objects suddenly
start to fly. I don’t know why, I haven’t found the error; so perhaps it is
kind of an unexpected evolution. The objects behave in a new way; the reason as
yet has not been ascertained.
(8) Software error – Flying
“Denn um es endlich auf
einmal herauszusagen, der Mensch spielt nur, wo er in voller Bedeutung des
Wortes Mensch ist, und er ist nur da ganz Mensch, wo er spielt.“ (Schiller) 
palpable success of computer games, questions about gaming as a cultural,
social and economic phenomenon have yet to be answered. Scientists are just starting to ask the
right questions. Brian Sutton-Smith writes: “Each person defines games in his
own way – the anthropologists and folklorists in terms of historical origins;
the military men, businessman, and educators in terms of usages; the social
scientists in terms of psychological and social functions. There is a
overwhelming evidence in all this that the meaning of games is, in part, a
function of the ideas of those who think about them.” 
extremely complex, in their internal structure and in the various kinds of
player experiences they create. “For hundreds of years, the field of game
design has drifted along under the radar of culture, producing timeless
masterpieces and masterful time-wasters without drawing much attention to itself
– without, in fact, behaving like a ‘field’ at all.” (Salen, Zimmermann) 
creates a subjective and deliberately simplified representation of emotional
reality. A game is not an objectively accurate representation of reality;
objective accuracy is only necessary to the extent required to support the
player’s fantasy. The player’s fantasy is the key agent in making the game
psychologically real.” (Crawford) 
argues in his famous book Homo Ludens, that
culture always grows out of gaming “(…)
dass Kultur in Form von Spiel entsteht, dass Kultur anfänglich gespielt wird.”)
One big issue
which was not tested in the experiment is the possibility within the technology
of game engines to create multiplayer environments or collaborative spaces.
MMORPG’s (massive multiplayer online role-playing games) such as Second Life or
Open Croquet are currently prospering. They provide the possibility to interact
and to communicate in a 3D virtual world.
Architecure_Engine_1.0 is meant to be an approach and not a ready to use tool.
The result is an infinite game. “A finite game is played for the purpose of
winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” (Carse) 
To get best
results it is necessary to alternate between the design-time and the play-time
as often as possible. And yet the result is always virtual. The architecture
becomes a playful event.
(9-10) Screenshots of the game
becomes a game being played by its users.” (Oosterhuis)  As an architect you are the designer of the rules,
you write the scripts of the game, you develop the algorithms, and finally you
play your own game. But in the game you can become everything and everybody: the
user, the planer, god or even the architecture itself. The architect becomes
programmer, player, user, god and architecture.
extremely relevant that the designers don’t just talk about the process, but
that they actually make it work. You must run the process and work in the
process.” as Kas Oosterhuis said.  The
outcome of the Architecture_Engine_1.0 is a reactive 3D virtual architecture,
within which the player can interact in runtime. The
architect becomes part of an infinite, generative, and reactive game. The
result is always different and unpredictable, even if the basic rules are very
simple. Play architecture
before the game is over!
 Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/
Oosterhuis, K. and L. Feireiss (2006). Game Set and Match II. Game Set and
Match II, Delft University of Technology, episode publishers, Rotterdam, p. 11.
Crawford, C. (1982). The Art of Computer Game Design
 Huizinga, J. (1938). Homo
Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag. p. 20
 Schiller, Friedrich (1795): Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen.
Wohlhardt Henchmann. Fink, München.
 E.M. Avedon, “The Structural Eleemnts of Games”, in The Study of Games,
edited by E.M. Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith, New York, 1971, p. 438
Salen, K. and E. Zimmermann (2004). Rules of Play – Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge,
Crawford, C. (1982). The Art of Computer Game Design
 Huizinga, J. (1938). Homo
Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.
 Carse, J. p. (1994). Finite and Infinite Games:
A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. Reissue, Ballantine Books.
Oosterhuis, K. (2003). Hyper Bodies - Towards an E-motive architecture. Basel,
 Oosterhuis, K. (2001). game set and match. game set and match, Delft
University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft.
of the game Architecure_Engine_1.0