Ancient Blueprints

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal floor plan
For a while now I have been taking notice of the unique style and architecture of the arcades that I regularly visit in Gamestar Mechanic. My familiarity with each of these arcades is based on my understanding of the districts they represent. However, as I’ve taken more notice of the spaces in which these arcades exist and the environments in which the game districts flourish, I’ve realized that there is a deep connection between the design of space, its function, and the idea the space expresses. The history of how public and private spaces are designed has always intrigued me, and today I decided to conduct a little experiment.

I brought with me to the game arcades three blueprints of historical buildings I love: the Taj Mahal in India, the Palace of Versailles in France, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony in China’s Forbidden City. Using these blueprints, I recreated each of these real world spaces as top-down game spaces. As I was modeling these spaces, I followed many of the measurements and design principles that were important to the original architects. For ex- ample, according to historical documents the width and depth of the Hall of Supreme Harmony is nine bays by five bays, numbers that are directly related to values associated with the concept of majesty in Chinese culture. I also rediscovered many cool facts about these buildings. The Palace of Versailles, for example, has a set of seven rooms dedicated to the Roman gods.

In addition to discovering a lot of information about these buildings, I also had the chance to think about how the form of a building relates to its function. The Taj Mahal, for example, was built to honor Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of the Mugal emperor Shah Jahan. Looking at the blueprints you can see that while the building is made up of four main exterior rooms and hallways connecting them, they are all meant to draw visitors into the central room where the tomb of Mumtaz is located. The grounds on which the Taj Mahal is located use a similar method, drawing visitors’ attention to the great dome of the building. The large reflection pools are especially successful at doing this.

Based on the design shown in the blueprints, I decided to design a game where the player is drawn closer and closer to the center chamber. So far, I have made one level that takes place on the gardens of the Taj Mahal, where the player must avoid enemy sprites and search for a key to the door of the main building. I am currently designing the second level to take place inside the Taj Mahal itself, using the four exterior rooms as locations for a challenge. However, I’m still not sure how I want to use the central chamber in my game. Maybe it will be the location of a boss or a great treasure. Or both!