Tell me an RPG developer used a tabletop roleplaying system to sketch out the design for their new videogame? I sleep. Tell me the creator of Kerbal Space Program used another sim—the most popular city builder of the past decade—to create the map for his model plane flight simulation? Real shit. I can't think of a more PC gaming solution to indie game development.
I recently chatted with Felipe "HarvesteR" Falanghe about Kitbash Model Club, a relaunched version of a game he first released in early access in 2021. At the time it was called Balsa Model Flight Simulator, but Falanghe explained the new name, new publisher, and new scope (read about all that here).
Then we started talking about the map. Kitbash Model Club is set in a bay with a pair of islands at the center. It was originally sparsely detailed, because Balsa started as a VR dogfighting game. Now that space needed to be explorable on foot and from the perspective of small model vehicles, it needed to be much more intricate. It's also nine times bigger than before. How'd they pull that off despite being a tiny three-person indie team?
"We really had to rethink our whole approach to the map design and how we were putting it together," Falanghe said. "We actually ended up redoing all of our tools to generate the world, to a point where we could import vector data from OpenStreetMap. We really wanted our map to be the same fictional bay location, so we used a city builder game with a mod that could export OpenStreetMap data. It exported the layout, no assets or anything, just the layout as vectors. So we got to build out a model of our world and plan out where things go, then we had vector data to generate the world in a semi-procedural way."
When I asked, Falanghe confirmed that the game was Cities: Skylines. Turns out we even wrote about just such a Skylines map way back in 2015.
"We used it, essentially, as a very user-friendly level editor. If you think about how SimCity came to be, it was originally a level editing tool that Will Wright came up with to create the world for a helicopter game. So there is a lot of overlap, historically, between city building games and level editors. They kind of share a common ancestor."
That game, by the way, was not SimCopter, but Raid on Bungeling Bay.