Mapping the Streets of L.A.

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True Crime: Streets of LA’s success relies heavily on the randomly automated reactions and behaviors of innocent bystanders, as well as the reconstruction of the entire city and its socioeconomic structure.

Jeff Lander, programmer at Luxoflux responsible for the creation of True Crime, covered some of the techniques used to digitally map and recreate Los Angeles and emulate the behaviors of the population and traffic at GDC 2004.

Ultimately, the development team wanted to create a true-to-life rendition of Los Angeles that would detail the city from stop signs and streetlights to the edginess of certain neighborhoods.

Questions of how to recreate parts of L.A. kicked off the project with research delving into city government documents and maps, satellite photos and on-site factors.

The project began with an initial plan of mapping 240 square miles of the L.A. area, from Pacific Palisades to Chinatown, and from Beverly Hills to Marina Del Rey. The end result was over 2,250 miles of actual drivable roads.

“It wasn’t easy dealing with government maps,” said Lander. In order to accomplish such a feat of translating 2D to 3D, “we had to investigate the kind of data that was available from the city — community and public — and figure out how to build it into the presentation of the game.”

§nother map was created from the city’s information that detailed socioeconomic data. Areas with high crime rates were recreated, detailing the houses and buildings.

With socioeconomic data separated into colored sections, the city then had to be organized in ways that the developers could work with in order to integrate events and occurrences in the game. Research conducted on population and traffic density was also utilized to generate random behaviors of the people and cars in the game.

Another map was conceived to mark off and sort regions and districts: Westwood, downtown, Chinatown, Koreatown, etc. And key points of interest were also added as location scouts to find placement for in-game locations like dojos and other landmarks.

The team also examined satellite photos — block by block — to see how freeways intersected, what housing looked like in certain areas and how other facets of the city could be developed.

The precise recreation of L.A. in True Crime proved to be one of the most appealing elements in the game. You can actually drive up to existing noribangs in Koreatown, or Sam Woo’s in Chinatown. Though rare, such precise mapping of a city is also present in The Getaway (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, 2003), which recreates London.

Perhaps in the future, we can look forward to such noteworthy environmental mapping for city and government usage.

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