Thursday, May 16th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Esri ships CityEngine 2019.0

Esri has released CityEngine 2019.0, the latest version of the procedural 3D city-generation software, overhauling the interactive design tools and extending its CGA procedural modelling language.

The update also makes it possible to export data in glTF format, improves export to Unreal Studio, adds support for Oculus Rift headsets in VR output, and revamps the Houdini and Maya plugins.

In addition, the old Basic edition of the software has been discontinued.

A powerful procedural tool for generating 3D city models for urban planning and VFX
CityEngine generates detailed city models from simple procedural rules, importing data in standard file formats like OBJ and DXF, and exporting in formats including FBX and Alembic.

Although aimed at architects and urban planners – it integrates with ESRI’s ArcGIS platform – the software is also designed for entertainment, and comes with connections to DCC tools and game engines.

In recent years, it has been used on some major movies: Scanline VFX used it for city-destruction shots in Independence Day: Resurgence, and Walt Disney Animation Studios used it on Zootopia.

Updates to the 2D drawing tools and procedural modelling language
CityEngine 2019.0 updates the software’s drawing and transformation tools, making “numerous performance improvements”, and improving workflow when drawing 2D arcs, or drawing polygons on terrain.

There is also a new Subtract Boolean tool for 2D shapes.

CGA, the software’s procedural modelling language, gets a range of new operations, including rectify, for aligning buildings at strict 90-degree angles, and resetGeometry, which can be used to repeatedly generate geometry from a single starting shape. You can find a full list of new CGA operations here.

In addition, CGA can now be used to read in data from text formats such as CSV files, and gains new material attributes to support PBR workflows.

Support for glTF export, and improved integration with Houdini, Maya and Unreal Studio
In related news, CityEngine can also now import or export in the increasingly popular glTF format for exchanging data for real-time 3D applications, including the PBR material attributes of glTF 2.0.

The Unreal Studio exporter has also been updated to support PBR materials, along with supporting native Unreal landscapes for terrain elevation data, and workflows that require metadata on meshes.

Of the DCC integrations, Palladio, the open-source Houdini plugin, gets support for Houdini Digital Assets, meaning that CityEngine rules can be embedded in procedural assets in HDA format.

In addition, the plugin no longer requires a licence of CityEngine for non-commercial use.

The release notes also list a new Maya plugin called Serlio as “coming soon”, although we aren’t certain if that’s separate to the old unofficial PRT4MAYA plugin: we’ve contacted Esri, and will update if we hear back.

Updated 22 May 2019: Esri describes PRT4MAYA as “essentially … a prototype”, and that it is now looking to “implement it properly with more capabilities”.

The software also now integrates with ArcGIS Urban, Esri’s upcoming web-based urban planning system.

Other changes include support for Oculus Rift headsets when exporting CityEngine scenes as VR experiences via Unreal Studio, along with a new integrated tool to batch replace actors and vegetation.

Now available as a single fully featured edition
CityEngine 2019.0 also marks a change of product versioning.

Whereas the software used to come as a $500 Basic edition and a $4,000 Advanced edition, which added Python scripting and VR export, there is now a “single full version … with all the capabilities of Advanced”.

At the time of posting, Esri’s online store still lists the old Basic and Advanced editions, so we’ve contacted the company to check the current pricing.

Updated 22 May 2019: Esri told us that pricing is set by its local distributors, and varies by country.

Pricing and availability
CityEngine 2019.0 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+ and Server 2008+, RHEL 6 Linux and macOS 10.13+.

Pricing varies from country to country, according to local distributors. Students can buy the software for $100 as part of Esri’s ArcGIS for Student Use product bundle.

Read an overview of the new features in CityEngine 2019.0

Read a full list of new features in CityEngine 2019.0 in the online changelog