Project Highrise – April 2016 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, April 27th, 2016

Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos.
(Whoever’s is the soil, it is theirs all the way to heaven and to hell).

A question we get frequently when people first see Project Highrise is an obvious one when your game is based on building skyscrapers: “How high can I build?” On the technical side of the game, that’s mostly up to you as the player – how tall can you or do you want to build?

But it’s also more complicated than that, because city laws and rules also impact you as tower builder and manager. That opening quote in Latin forms one of the core tenets of modern property law – that if you own a piece of land, you own everything that’s above it and below it. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely free to do with it as you please. Cities set rules, limits, regulations and statutes that govern construction of everything from backyard sheds to gleaming towers of steel and glass.

The city regulates how much tower you can build. Click the image for larger.

Almost as soon as steel frames liberated builders from the rather modest height achievable with masonry load bearing walls (see the Monadnock Building building in Chicago for the limits of masonry walls), cities began imposing limits on how tall these new buildings could rise. In 1920, that was 264 feet in Chicago and between 600 and 700 feet in New York.

In addition to the limit on height, there is also the concept of air rights. These are a set of rules and calculations that permit a given number of square feet to be built on a lot based on its dimensions and location. The combination of these two things largely defines how much tower you can build.

As an aspiring developer in Project Highrise, you’ll have to be keenly aware of those limits as you plan and construct your tower. You will only be able to build a set amount of floor space, and up to a certain height. So do you go as tall as possible and maximize for height? Or do you max out your floor area first and building height second? Maybe you build a large base and a skinny tower (or two)?

This large building is nearing its city-imposed limit on height. Click the image for larger.

In Project Highrise’s campaign mode scenarios (and to a more limited extent in sandbox), you’ll be confronted with building lots of many different configurations and sizes. Some come with their own special city limitations for you to work with (or around). Your challenge will be to create a prestigious, prosperous tower within the constraints of size, zoning and other civic constraints.

Of course, there are ways to massage those rules in your favor. You can hire consultants that can use their influence with City Hall to allow you a valuable exemption. You can agree to build some public space in exchange for an increased allocation of air rights. Often the city will also be looking to encourage specific types of construction – tall residential towers or expansive office buildings. You should use these initiatives to your advantage.

A successful developer will have to manage more than just the tenants in the building, but a whole host of external pressures. More on those other external pressures next time.

Project Highrise – March 2016 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, March 30th, 2016

When it comes to getting things done, we need fewer architects and more bricklayers.
-Colleen C. Barrett

In previous notes, we’ve met workers who will help you build and run your tower – such as construction workers and service workers. Today we’d like to introduce you to your management team – the consultants who will assist you with various aspects of building management and improvement.

Good building management is key to becoming a highly prestigious, sought-after address. To project an aura of sophistication and modernity, and to improve the aesthetics of your building, you will want to hire an interior designer who has the right connections with all the right galleries. Good relations with City Hall will also prove invaluable, and you should hire a lobbyist who has the ear of City Hall to arrange for certain lucrative concessions or exceptions from pesky city regulations. Finally, you should optimize your building through experienced building management. From hiring more construction workers to increasing service capacity, a good building manager can make things in your building happen more efficiently and with greater speed.

Building managers managing a building.

These consultants are essentially management mercenaries. But while they’ll work for cash, they won’t work for just anyone. In Project Highrise, you need to prove that you have enough cachet to attract them and their services. In other words, you need to have influence.

So, how do you get it? Influence comes from having important tenants in your building, such as big corporations or rich residents, and keeping them happy. The more important tenants you have, the more influence you will have, which in turn will make your building an attractive place for consultants to ply their trade. Once you have the right management team in place, you can then begin to parlay your accumulated influence into various building improvements, amazing artworks, or valuable exemptions to city regulations.

After the interior decorator has decided to join your team, you’ll be able to get those sought-after pieces to adorn your lobbies and hallways. This will greatly increase the prestige of your building.


Or how about a metro station in the basement of the building? That would certainly increase the value of your building for current and prospective tenants. Your lobbyist can work on leveraging your influence with City Hall to make that happen.


Extra construction workers would also make everything go faster – from building expansion to moving in tenants. Your building manager consultant can arrange for that.


World-famous towers need world-class management. Influence and a good team of consultants will be crucial if you want to create a famous address.

Project Highrise – February 2016 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, February 23rd, 2016

The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in our human psyche.
César Pelli

This month, we’re taking a quick break from our usual posts to announce some exciting news about Project Highrise.

Exciting News #1
We’re proud to announce that we’re teaming up with Kasedo Games, a division of Kalypso Media, to release Project Highrise. If you’re not familiar, Kalypso is the company that brought us the lovely and wonderful Tropico series of games. While this doesn’t mean that El Presidente will have an office in your tower, it does mean that we’ll have a lot of help from them as we work toward releasing Project Highrise this summer.

You can learn more more about Kasedo and the other games they’ve released or are in the pipeline by visiting their website at They’re on twitter at @KasedoGames. You can also see the press release about our partnership here.

Exciting News #2
We’re going to be at GDC in San Francisco next month to demo the game. If you’re in the media business and would like to spend some time with us and see the game in vivo, contact Lindsay Schneider at Kalypso for an appointment. And to all of our Bay Area friends, we’ll see you in a few weeks!

Exciting News #3
Project Highrise has got a logo! Eddie Einikis, the artist that created all of the offices and other tenants in the game also created this amazing logo for the game. Pretty neat, right?

We’ll return to posts about the ongoing development of the game next month when we’ll delve into the beginnings of the game’s campaign mode.  

Project Highrise – January 2016 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, January 29th, 2016

If a building becomes architecture, then it is art.
Arne Jacobsen

350 5th Avenue.
233 South Wacker Drive
30 St Mary Axe
600 Montgomery Street
1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard

Recognize any of those addresses? No? Ok. How about these:

The Empire State Building
The Sears Tower
The Gherkin
The Transamerica Pyramid
The Burj Khalifa

They represent the fusion of glass and steel with fame and prestige. In Project Highrise, it’s your job as the architect to add your building to that list. But how exactly do you transform mere plots of land, these anonymous address coordinates, into names recognized the world over? What differentiates an Empire State Building from a nameless point on the Manhattan skyline? In this month’s Architect’s Notes, we’ll examine the features of your tower that bring fame and renown.

As your building grows and becomes more complex, you’ll begin to gain prestige. When you achieve certain population milestones, you’ll see your prestige rise. More people living and working in your building will mean that more people will know about your building.

A high population starts the prestige gains. Click for larger.

When your tower is starting out, you’ll only be able to attract some basic tenants to rent space. These are tenants who aren’t picky about their address and will rent pretty much anywhere, but they also don’t want to pay much. Do you want to attract higher-end and higher paying tenants? You’ll need to gain prestige. Want to attract the headquarters of a famous company? You’ll need to gain prestige. Do you want a fancy French restaurant with curated menus or a chic jeweler to grace your shopping concourse? You’ll need to gain prestige.

While money can’t buy fame in Project Highrise, it can buy famous art pieces – from fountains to paintings to statues. Small artworks will add a minimal amount of prestige: they’re nice pieces for the tenants and visitors to notice as they walk by, but nothing too terribly impressive in their own right. By contrast, large works of art will add significantly to your prestige level. You can project your fame by placing a statue in your plaza or commissioning a famous mural for your lobby. These will not only impress the tenants, but they’ll attract visitors in their own right to come and behold your good taste.

A chic lobby speaks of status and taste. Click for larger.

Prestige will also unlock other avenues of development. There will be many city contracts that will only be available if your building has earned enough prestige. Some building advisors (who can greatly improve the function of your building) will only work with you if you have reached a required level of prominence.

Building up prestige is one way that your tower will go from mere high rise building into a skyscraper recognized the world over. There are other ways to help boost fame, but we’ll save those for another installment.

Project Highrise – November 2015 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, November 27th, 2015

The love of glory gives an immense stimulus.
– Ovid

In addition to the workers and residents that you’ll see day in and day out, your tower will also start to attract visitors from the city at large. Businesses like this newsstand will draw in shoppers to leaf through the latest issues. Once they’re done, they might want to grab a coffee or quick drink while they read their purchases.


Also, some of your businesses will begin to draw in clients, patients and colleagues from the city for appointment and meetings. Once the appointment is concluded, they may grab lunch. Or if the meeting wraps up, it may be time to head to the bar to continue discussions over a beer.

If a visitor to your building had a great experience, then there’s a chance their visit will generate a buzz point or two. Once your buzz total reaches a high enough level, you’ll be able to leverage your building’s popularity and notoriety into coverage in the media by launching a campaign.  

What’s the buzz? (click for larger)

Media campaigns will last a set period of time and during that time, you’ll be able to reap certain benefits – cheaper construction costs, reduced utility bills or increased restaurant patronage. As you gain experience, campaigns will progress and become more powerful.  

Broken elevators are bad news.(click for larger)

So keep a sharp eye on your residents, workers and visitors. Make sure that they can get to where they need to go efficiently. Keep you building in good repair. Ensure that your restaurants and retail outlets aren’t getting mobbed. Put up some nice artwork here and there. You’ll find a happy building is a profitable building.

Project Highrise – October 2015 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, October 30th, 2015

You can put down a bad book; you can avoid listening to bad music; but you cannot miss the ugly tower block opposite your house.
Renzo Piano

Where do all of those artificial people go when they leave work? This month, we reveal the secrets of homelife in Project Highrise.

Home is where the heart(h) is
So far, we’ve mainly talked about buildings full of offices and things related to office workers’ wants and needs – from the restaurants where they head for lunch to the couriers who deliver their important packages. But tall buildings are not always full of offices and business activity. Often, they’re towering residential blocks teeming with apartments, condos and amenities for the sky-dwelling urbanite.


For you as the building manager, there are important differences between offices and apartments: apartments are much more needy. Kitchens need gas hookups, bathrooms need water, and apartment dwellers want cable TV to entertain themselves. And that’s just utilities, don’t even get me started about amenities like laundry rooms or gyms.

Trash talk
But first, let’s talk about garbage (and recycling). Apartment living is messy and all of that garbage generated by life’s daily activity needs to go somewhere. Apartment residents want to be able to get rid of their refuse easily and will want trash bins (1) and recycling rooms (2) available on each floor.


Once those fill up, your building maintenace staff will collect discarded items from bins, and bring them into your building’s central trash rooms (3) or recycling centers (4). You’ll have a contract with a hauler that will empty them out every once in awhile.

Right now, the recycling center (2) is full and could use a pick-up. Until it gets emptied, your building maintenace staff won’t be able to put anything else in it. So they won’t be able to clear out the small bins on each floor. Following the chain backwards to the point of generation, that means that when that resident on the top goes to empty her household recycling, she’ll find that the room is full. And it probably doesn’t smell great or look nice. On top of that, she can’t dump her garbage. That will make her upset.

What’s that smell? And noise? And…
No one wants to live near a trash heap of fish heads and eggshells. Trash stinks, so you’ll have to be careful about where you locate trash and recycling facilities. Here’s the building with an overlay in red showing the impact and extent of the smelliness generated by the trash. While the elevators don’t care so much, the people to the right might be a little upset by the constant odor of everyone’s garbage next door.


And your residents will be sensitive to a whole array of environmental factors. Offices and stores tend to be noisy, while restaurants have kitchen smells and loud parties, so they’ll need a bigger buffer between them and your apartments.

But for some, living close to the elevator might be nice. And everyone likes a view, so apartments on higher floors will command premium rents. Putting in some nice artwork or otherwise improving the appearance of your tower will also go down well with your tenants.

Status and clout
So now it looks like “building super” is also on your list of jobs in Project Highrise. And while dealing with an angry tenant is never any fun, there will be considerable benefits for welcoming apartments into your tower. Apartments are where people live, sleep and bring up the next generation. They’re home. You’ll be able to take advantage of the political power generated by your residents in other spheres of development, and leverage that to your benefit. But that’s a subject for a later discussion.

Project Highrise – September 2015 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, September 25th, 2015

Only when the design fails does it draw attention to itself; when it succeeds, it’s invisible.
– John D. Berry

Last month’s Architect’s Notes focused on the human infrastructure of a tower in Project Highrise – the service workers and providers that you’ll have to manage to keep tenants happy. To keep the rent flowing, there are a few other services that you’ll have to manage on behalf of your tenants.

Is your name not Bruce, then?
First, let’s meet a tenant. This is Dr. Brucette. She’s a dentist and this is her office. Her receptionist, Bruce, is working in the waiting area.
Click above for a larger image

[And yes, right now, all of our NPCs are named Bruce or Brucette. Because ]

The first thing that Dr. Brucette needs is electricity to keep the drills going and the lights on. Dentistry in the dark would be an alarming thing indeed. You’ll also notice that she’s got a sink nearby and her assistant and receptionist, Bruce, needs to call patients to remind them that their cleaning is approaching. So a water connection and phone service will be necessary in addition to electricity. You’ll need to have those things in place to keep this dentist from moving out and creating a cavity in your tower.

You’ve got the power.

First, you’ll need to allocate some space in your basement or a sub-basement for some equipment that will interface with the utility network outside of your building. Here are the five types of utilities and examples of what type of equipment you’ll need to build to provide them to your tenants:

  1. Power transformers for electricity
  2. Switches and transceivers for phone service
  3. Routers and interfaces for cable TV service
  4. Pumps and filters for water service
  5. Manifolds and pressure regulators for natural gas

Once built, each of those will provide a certain amount of capacity to your building. Careful monitoring will be necessary to make sure that you’re able to deliver what your building is demanding. Your water pumps will need to have enough power to fill kitchen sinks while also running dishwashers in restaurants. You’ll be able to add more pumps but you’ll also be able to construct large pumps that are more efficient – but also more expensive.

So, now you’ve got the pumps, transformers and switches built. The next step is to get the water, power and phone lines to Dr. Brucette’s office where they’re needed. To connect one floor with the one above or below it, you’ll need to build utility closets, of which Project Highrise has two types:

  1. A wiring closet that allows you to connect wires between floors for electricity, phone and TV; and
  2. A plumbing closet that allows pipes to connect between floors.

Closets are on the bottom right. Click for a larger image.

Once you’ve got those in place on the floor where Dr. Brucette’s office is located, you’ll be able to place the wires and pipes that will deliver service.

The bigger your network gets, the more expensive it will be to maintain. Building a small electric transformer will give you enough capacity for a limited number of connections in your building. Some tenants will only need one, but some will require multiple connections. Once you’ve exhausted your capacity, you’ll need to add more transformers. Larger meters, transformers and pumps will provide more connections, but while they’ll be more efficient, they’ll also be more expensive to maintain.

As you’re planning your tower, you’ll have many questions to dig into around utilities. Does it make sense to build an entire network of natural gas procurement and distribution for just one tenant? Or do you need to build access to phone service on every floor or just cluster those that need it together? If you expand and add more space to your tower, what will that do to your utility networks? Like every other type of real estate, location will matter and it’s up to you to find the right tenant for the right location.

The great architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once quipped about decoration that “Less is more” and when it comes to your tower’s utility network, those will be words to build by.

Project Highrise – August 2015 Architect’s Notes

by matt v, August 28th, 2015

Infrastructure is much more important than architecture.
Rem Koolhaas

Being a good builder and manager in Project Highrise will involve a lot of infrastructure construction and management. You’ll need to plan, build and maintain systems that will support the residents, offices, stores and restaurants that call your building home. These will include physical systems and human systems. Physical systems will include items like wires and pipes and stairs and elevators. We’ll discuss those systems in a future post. Today let’s focus on the human infrastructure of the tower.

First, let’s meet an office tenant. This is a small law firm.


Our friendly lawyer is in his office on the right and his associate is working at her desk on the left. In addition to supplying power to keep the lights on and the data service to keep them connected with the legal world at large, they have several other needs that you, as building manager, will need to keep up with.

From contracts to wills and patents to writs, the legal system kills lots of trees and generates a lot of paperwork. And everyone needs a copy or six. So they’ll need someone to come pick up and drop off stacks of files to copy and fax off to far-flung offices.

Once those documents are copied, they’re not doing much good just sitting at the lawyer’s office. They need to be filed with the proper authorities or sent to other lawyers to do lawyer-y things with them. Materials of this level of import merit proper delivery, not just a stamp and a prayer. So those in the legal profession and other fields dependent on documentation arriving predictably will want a courier service in the building.

In addition to writing, the other thing that occurs at a lawyer’s office is talking. From meetings to depositions, there’s a lot chatter generated within those walls. That creates a lot of parched throats, so our lawyer friends would also like spring water delivered on a regular and timely basis.

Click for a larger view.

In this corner of the tower, from left to right, we’ve got an office supply provider, a courier and a water delivery outfit. The courier is behind her counter waiting for the call that package or letter is ready to be picked up and dispatched to its destination. The other two workers – in the supply store and the water delivery shop – are out on deliveries somewhere else in the building. In fact, here is one of them at a graphic designer’s office after dropping of some fancy pencils:


Just like offices will expect services and infrastructure to support their business activities, residents in your building will also require certain services and amenities. Let’s meet a couple of apartment dwellers:


At a basic level, they’re going to want a place to drop off their trash and do the laundry. In this tower, those have been located in the basement. To the left of the stairwell, there’s also a plumber’s office to take care of leaky faucets and clogged drains.

Click for a larger view.

Each of these services has a limited capacity, so you’ll also have to make certain that you’ve got enough of each kind available. You don’t want to deal with office workers if the catered lunch they ordered fails to arrive in time for a meeting. Likewise, if an apartment resident can’t get their clothes clean or finds a trash room is always full, they will express their discontent. Unhappy tenants are more likely to reconsider renting in your building and move out.

As your tower grows, your tenants will become more sophisticated in their requirements. That’s a fancy way of saying that they’ll be very needy. It will be up to you as the manager of the building to ensure that you can provide the level of service that your tenants will expect.

1849: Gold Edition

by matt v, August 11th, 2015


Today we’ve released 1849: Gold Edition which combines the original California scenarios along with the six Nevada scenarios.

We’ve also added an Epilogue featuring 2 final scenarios after the Gold Rush, where you can take the reins in Oakland and Nevada City to rebuild their wealth-depleted economies in the post-rush era.

Everyone who bought 1849 or 1849: Gold Edition gets the new 2-level epilogue as a free update through the store you purchased it from. Check it out if you haven’t downloaded the update yet!

1849: Gold Edition is available from Steam, IndieGameStand, GOG, the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Happy Mining!

C# performance tips for Unity, part 2: structs and enums

by robert, August 7th, 2015

This is part two of a previous post on C# performance tips for Unity. If you haven’t seen Part 1, check it out for more background and context!

In the last post, we looked at a number of surprises around memory allocation – such as heap trash being generated by foreach loops, array properties, or variadic functions. Throwaway objects on the heap can easily cause performance hiccups, so the less garbage we generate at runtime, the less we have to worry about memory pressure or garbage collection cost.

After the last post, several commenters on Gamasutra and on Reddit pointed out additional surprising memory allocations in Unity and Mono, when using structs or enums inside generic collections. I benchmarked them in a similar way as last time, and here are some of the interesting results.

In short, there are three more areas to watch out for, where we can observe unexpected garbage generation:

  1. lists of structs (including built-ins like Vector4)
  2. dictionaries keyed by structs
  3. dictionaries keyed by enums

We’ll talk about these in detail. But just to front-load the conclusions, here’s how to fix them:

  • Make sure your structs implement IEquatable<T>
  • Make sure your structs override Equals() and GetHashCode()
  • Add a custom comparer to dictionaries keyed by enums

Pretty simple, huh? More details await. But first, a word or two about autoboxing.


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