If you ever played Age of Empires II, chances are you’ve spent a little time inside the game’s capable scenario editor. You almost certainly haven’t spent as much time as one player-artist, who goes to great lengths to reconstruct medieval cities inside the game.
Under the moniker VeniVidiCreavi, they carefully produce reconstructions of historical cities using the classic, 1990s strategy game. The result are landscape illustrations in the distinctive 2D isometric visuals of Age of Empires, which they then share as huge, high-resolution images.
So far they’ve created versions of the city of Vladimir in Russia, Tudor London, and an interpretation of Xi’an as it existed during the Tang dynasty. Their favourite, they tell History Hit, is “probably Paris. I’ve liked it since the Joan of Arc campaign in the Age of Kings and have redone it several times and am very happy with the final result.”
VeniVidiCreavi has been working making these visualizations since around 2006, but only started making them historically accurate around two years ago. To create the cities, they plan them out using whatever source materials they can muster.
“I try to find historical reconstructions, old paintings, city plans,” VeniVidiCreavi explains. “There is limited info on some cities and huge detailed material on others. A series of 16th century paintings, Civitates orbis terrarum, is of great help since it captures the AOE2 period.”
“Then I draw the outlines of a city on a blank map shot, keeping the relative dimensions and just add the buildings step by step.” They then create a new screenshot of the whole map, and compare that to the source material.
Reconstructing medieval cities in Age of Empires II isn’t completely straightforward. “Initially the limitation was the lack of diversity in architectural styles,” says VeniVidiCreavi, but thanks to user-made mods to the game there are “all kinds of new designs which greatly expanded the possibilities.”
There’s also the issue of the lack of a map shot function in the new versions of the game, the absence of circular walls which are otherwise difficult to replicate in Age of Empires II, and a limited pool of buildings. “I usually replace [them] with combinations of existing ones [by] pasting them together with the map copy function, but that’s a common trick.”
In their Reddit threads, which are popular in both maps and Age of Empires segments of the site, VeniVidiCreavi includes historical information about the cities. They support the endeavour through Patreon, where they share high-res images and the original scenario files for the city maps.