Using Cellular Automata as a Basis for Procedural Generation of Organic Cities


  •   Melek B. Temuçin

  •   İlker Kocabaş

  •   Kaya Oğuz


Procedural content generation (PCG) methods are commonly employed in computer games, simulations, and other related industries. While these methods are used for levels, terrains, stories and missions, their usage for procedural city generation is relatively rare because cities are heterogeneous structures with different components such as roads, layouts and buildings that depend on and affect each other. Additionally, ancient cities grew organically to areas that are safe and to those that provide food and water. This resulted in cities that do not have apparent regular patterns, such as rectangular building blocks. We propose an approach that uses cellular automata (CA) that generates clusters of areas. The CA is repeated for each cluster to hierarchically create different levels of the city. This procedure creates an organic city layout with fractal properties. The layout specifies the building blocks, main roads, and foliage. We also present a set of methods that can transform this layout into a three-dimensional model of the city. The results are promising; cities can be created in under a minute with minimal required input, and the resulting virtual city looks organic, rather than an algorithmic layout that has repeating patterns.  

Keywords: cellular automata, computer games, procedural city generation


N. Shaker, J. Togelius, and M. J. Nelson, Procedural Content Generation in Games: A Textbook and an Overview of Current Research. Springer, 2016.

M. Hendrikx, S. Meijer, J. Van Der Velden, and A. Iosup, “Procedural content generation for games: A survey,” ACM Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communications and Applications, vol. 9, pp. 1-24, Feb. 2013.

W. R. Tobler, “Cellular Geography,” in Philosophy in Geography (S. Gale and G. Olsson, eds.), pp. 379-386, Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 1979.

H. Couclelis, “Cellular worlds: a framework for modeling micro—macro dynamics,” Environment and Planning A, vol. 17, no. 5, pp. 585-596, 1985.

M. Batty, Y. Xie, and Z. Sun, “Modeling urban dynamics through GIS-based cellular automata,” Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 205-233, 1999.

L. Benguigui, D. Czamanski, and R. Roth, “Modeling cities in 3d: a cellular automaton approach,” Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 413-430, 2008.

A. Emilien, A. Bernhardt, A. Peytavie, M.-P. Cani, and E. Galin, “Procedural generation of villages on arbitrary terrains,” The Visual Computer, vol. 28, p. 809–818, June 2012.

M. Batty, “Cellular automata and urban form: a primer,” Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 266-274, 1997.

T. Lechner, B. Watson, and U. Wilensky, “Procedural city modeling,” in In 1st Midwestern Graphics Conference, 2003.

T. Lechner, P. Ren, B. Watson, C. Brozefski, and U. Wilenski, “Procedural Modeling of Urban Land Use,” in ACM SIGGRAPH 2006 Research Posters, SIGGRAPH '06, (New York, NY, USA), ACM, 2006.

C. A. Vanegas, D. G. Aliaga, B. Benes, and P. A. Waddell, “Interactive design of urban spaces using geometrical and behavioral modeling,” in ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG), vol. 28, p. 111, ACM, 2009.

N. Kato, T. Okuno, A. Okano, H. Kanoh, and S. Nishihara, “An ALife approach to modeling virtual cities,” in IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, vol. 2, pp. 1168-1173 vol.2, Oct. 1998.

Y. I. Parish and P. Müller, “Procedural modeling of cities,” in Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, pp. 301-308, ACM, 2001.

S. Greuter, J. Parker, N. Stewart, and G. Leach, “Real-time procedural generation of pseudo infinite cities,” in Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Australasia and South East Asia, pp. 87-ff, ACM, 2003.

S. Greuter, Undiscovered worlds, real-time procedural generation of virtual three-dimensional spaces. PhD thesis, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2008.

G. Kelly and H. McCabe, “Citygen: An interactive system for procedural city generation,” in Fifth International Conference on Game Design and Technology, pp. 8-16, 2007.

S. Groenewegen, R. M. Smelik, K. J. de Kraker, and R. Bidarra, “Procedural City Layout Generation Based on Urban Land Use Models,” in Eurographics (Short Papers), pp. 45-48, 2009.

A. Emilien, A. Bernhardt, A. Peytavie, M.-P. Cani, and E. Galin, “Procedural generation of villages on arbitrary terrains,” The Visual Computer, vol. 28, pp. 809-818, June 2012.

R. Laycock, G. Ryder, and A. Day, “Automatic generation, texturing and population of a reflective real-time urban environment,” Computers & Graphics, vol. 31, pp. 625-635, Aug. 2007.

B. Weber, P. Müller, P. Wonka, and M. Gross, “Interactive Geometric Simulation of 4d Cities,” Computer Graphics Forum, vol. 28, pp. 481-492, Apr. 2009.

B. Williams and C. J. Headleand, “A Time-Line Approach for the Generation of Simulated Settlements,” pp. 134-141, IEEE, Sept. 2017.

O. Pueyo, A. Sabrià, X. Pueyo, G. Patow, and M. Wimmer, “Shrinking city layouts,” Computers & Graphics, vol. 86, pp. 15-26, Feb. 2020.

S. Wolfram, “Universality and Complexity in Cellular Automata,” in Theory and Applications of Cellular Automata, vol. 1 of Advanced Series on Complex Systems, pp. 91-125, Singapore: World Scientific, 1986.

R. White and G. Engelen, “Cellular automata and fractal urban form: a cellular modelling approach to the evolution of urban land-use patterns,” Environment and Planning A, vol. 25, no. 8, pp. 1175-1199, 1993.

N. Kato, T. Okuno, R. Suzuki, and H. Kanoh, “Modeling virtual cities based on interaction between cells,” in IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, vol. 1, pp. 143-148, IEEE, 2000.

M. Honda, K. Mizuno, Y. Fukui, and S. Nishihara, “Generating autonomous time-varying virtual cities,” in International Conference on Cyberworlds, pp. 45-52, Nov. 2004.

C. Sexton and B. Watson, “Vectorization of Gridded Urban Land Use Data,” in Proceedings of the 2010 Workshop on Procedural Content Generation in Games, PCGames '10, (New York, NY, USA), pp. 5:1-5:8, ACM, 2010.

K. Sear, “Buildings - Batch of 21 Seamless Textures with normal maps,” 2016.

T. Speed, “Free Urban Textures: Buildings, Apartments, Shop Fronts,” 2015.

Mitylernal, “Low-poly Tree,” 2016.

“Unity3d,” 2020.


Download data is not yet available.


How to Cite
Temuçin, M.B., Kocabaş, İlker and Oğuz, K. 2020. Using Cellular Automata as a Basis for Procedural Generation of Organic Cities. European Journal of Engineering and Technology Research. 5, 12 (Dec. 2020), 116-120. DOI: