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Building Tips: Negative Space, Make Your City Complete

The author: sarlac

I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about the gap between things. Frequently I see Minecraft builds that are things plopped onto the land. Sometimes they are towns, keeps, or cities, which in turn become many things plopped onto the land – near each other but not WITH each other.

Proximity does not necessitate a relationship. It’s the difference between being stuck next to a stranger on the bus, and a road trip with a good friend. Buildings have their own way of speaking to each other, and you get to decide if they have anything to say.

This demonstration starts with creating an alleyway between two industrial buildings. The city is old, has been built and rebuilt over the ages, leaving it with numerous nooks and crannies and back passages. To get that quality I had to start with the gaps and let that shape the buildings. This may seem like a backwards way of designing, but the space between was too important to be left as an afterthought.

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First order of business is to break the flat ground plane. Space is three dimensional and flat is too clean for a city like this one. An early doorway also helps to establish the presence of the first building.
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A small bridge across the alley allows for circulation to cross the original narrow path and creates a third level to work with later. This will be used for defining building number two.
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Still early on in the process I want to define boundaries because otherwise this narrow alley could stretch on forever and just turn into another road. By turning the back stair 90º it means you can’t see the exit when you enter. There’s a little more allure and mystery with this move, but possibly danger as well since this is an unsavory district.
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Instead of everything just resting on top of the original ground plane, cutting down as well helps to anchor the space. Now we also have a cellar to utilize for nefarious purposes and shady dealings.
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Enough has been built to start a façade for the first building. Materials so far are simple: cobblestone, stone, half slab, stone brick, and granite. Wood accents will be added to give a little life and just a touch of warmth.
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The bridge across now gets define building number two.
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In the back is technically building number three, but it is really just serving as a backdrop.
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For the alleyway to feel properly narrow, the proportions needed means this space gets rather tall. To help enclose the alley even more (and because bridges are awesome) a sixth circulation path is added up top. What’s really cool about this one is that you can’t even access it from below. When I design the interior of these buildings later I will have to consider how to get up here from each side.
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Roofs going up on buildings two and three, which are deliberately at different heights to avoid uniformity and too many clean lines.
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Building one gets a ladder from the upper bridge to level seven which gives the option for running along roof tops. This spot is tucked away and a little tricky to get to, but for an exploration map you could tell there must be a way up and possibly a reward waiting.
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View from the alley entrance. In Japanese, the word is “Ma” (間) and the closest we get in English is “the space between”. This can take several forms, but they are typically experiential and based on perception. It can be the moss between stepping stones, or the gap between leaves that lets the sunlight through. Slightly less poetic, “Ma” can refer to the pause between notes, like the silence just before a sick drop for extra wub wub, or the seismic charge in SW:E2 (arguably the best moment from Ben Burtt in Attack of the Clones).
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View from the third level. —– Whatever your fancy, “Ma” deals with the concept of negative space – the space between spaces, objects, or things, and it is anything but “empty”.
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View from the sixth level.
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View from the seventh level. Upon entering the alley there are effectively ten different exits. A lot can be hidden through here.
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All of this is neatly tucked away behind an otherwise unassuming street front. Run along too quickly and you might miss it… which makes it that much more rewarding for someone who finds it and takes the time to explore. 

Final Thoughts: “It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence […] If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter the clatter and clamor one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music… but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things and so the silence remained.” ~Patrick Rothfuss, “The Name of the Wind”

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2 Comments on "Building Tips: Negative Space, Make Your City Complete"

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CoryParker
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What texture pack did you use in these screenshots and what style of buildings would you consider these?

drakray
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Original posting on Imgur: http://sarlacminecraft.imgur.com/

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