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A Gamer Spent 200 Hours Building an Incredibly Detailed Digital San Francisco

This might be the most realistic video-game version of the city in existence.

It’s so realistic you can almost taste the saline sea air, but every building, park, and boulevard in this “San Francisco” is a digital imposter.

Redditor radiativeDoctor writes that making the “1:1 recreation” took between 200 and 250 hours in a modded version of Cities: Skylines, a video game about city-building. Referencing images from Google Maps, the cartographer painstakingly built neighborhoods and urban forests until hitting the game’s limit on building number.

San Francisco 1:1 recreation : building limit reached!

The classic sights are all there: the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, the verdant Presidio, touristy Pier 39, processions of cable cars and cargo ships, the Transamerica Pyramid, and the famously twisty Lombard Street. Scanning around reveals less-celebrated but notable places such as the lovely Palace of Fine Arts, the looping beach and 1880s-era sailing ship at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the dual-spired Saints Peter and Paul Church, and the Ferry Building. Even the haunted-looking Cliff House perched on the city’s rocky northern shore makes an appearance, as does the Sutro Tower in a slightly mutated form.

radiativeDoctor, who hasn’t responded to a request to comment, writes on Reddit: “I defended my PhD last winter, had to work 14 hours a day during 3 months at the end (and a way more than 35 hours a week before and after), still I find the way to play ~1300 hours to this game.” See large-scale images of the recreation on Imgur and read about its making on Reddit, where one person is telling radiativeDoctor to “build Oakland next so all the [simulated citizens] have somewhere to go when they get priced out.”

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.